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More New Details on NASA's CEV Launcher Studies

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the space-bureaucrats-will-find-a-way dept.

NASA 361

TheEqualizer writes "Continuing on the NYT story on NASA's current CEV launcher plans, spaceref has an even more extensive look with detailed assessments of the available options. By all accounts, it looks like NASA is picking up where it left off with Apollo but also combining it with established Shuttle technology -- the capsule concept of the 1960s atop the shuttle boosters of the 1970s being the winning combination under the current budgetary limitations. However, is this coupling of old technology and designs really the best we can do?"

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If it ain't broke... (1)

Cooper_007 (688308) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229498)

So what if it's old tech?

It works.
It stays within budget.

What's the problem?

Cooper
--
I don't need a pass to pass this pass!
- Groo The Wanderer -

Re:If it ain't broke... (1)

skatephat420 (803185) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229545)

The problem is that it endangers the life of astronauts. C'mon this is NASA where are the geniuses that are creating a new more efficient Space Craft. Oh ya they are waiting until private organizations come up with something... shame.

Re:If it ain't broke... (1)

Rabid_Llama (873072) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229608)

agreed. with all the other advancements we have made in aviation, why cant we make some here? look what burt rutan did, practically in his garage too. its rediculous that we havent come up with a more efficient design yet.

Re:If it ain't broke... (1)

bastiaannaber (701867) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229878)

Burt Rutan didn't go into orbit, he got up to 100 kms. I would really like to see him getting into a real orbit, however he wil surely need a very large amount of money and very skilled engineers. Getting into space is just very hard.

Re:If it ain't broke... (2, Interesting)

punkass (70637) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229906)

I'm so tired of people pulling Burt Rutan out of their ass every time a conversation about the shuttle comes up. It was a great achievement, but it didn't acheive LEO, has NO cargo capicity, and if by "built in his garage" you mean "built by a team of engineers for millions of dollars", well, cool. We got more done in the 60's with this kind of tech than we do now with our aging shuttle fleet. Also, since the boosters and fuel tanks are based on teh shuttles, we can utilize our current network of contractors to supply parts. I'm tired of spending billions just to get into space. Wouldn't you rather take the cheap way and then use the money to build a ship that goes elsewhere (re: Mars)?

Re:If it ain't broke... (1)

joib (70841) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229547)

Just like we have replaced 4 wheel cars with 5 wheel ones. You know, 4 wheels is so old so its gotta be bad, right?

The evidence seems to be pointing strongly in the direction that a traditional multi-stage rocket is the cheapest and safest way to space with current technology. At some point in the future when we have better materials and much better propulsion some kind of single stage spaceplane might make sense.

Re:If it ain't broke... (3, Insightful)

gunnk (463227) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229893)

To me, that's the problem.

The shuttle should have been a step towards true spaceplanes. It wasn't efficient, but it explored our prospects for fully reusable launch vehicles.

The next step was to be real spaceplanes. After that we could begin talking about things like commercial spaceliners, orbiting manufacturing facilities and all the other sci-fi dreams of my childhood.

Instead, we're finding that we can't (or won't: $$$) build on what we learned with the shuttle to create spaceplanes, so we're going back to rockets.

We went from sails to steam-driven paddleboats (which worked poorly) to propeller-driven steamships (which worked really well). The shuttle program is equivalent to saying "These paddleboats just have no future. Let's go back to sails."

Re:If it ain't broke... (-1, Troll)

cluckshot (658931) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229597)

There were proposals near the end of the Apollo program for BDB (Big Dumb Booster) to kick the stuff up into space for the people to work with who arrived seperately in their own capsule. Well the proposal got killed because it was too cheap and efficient. It quit hiring engineers and just got work done.

Being from the Redstone Arsenal Area where Marshall Space Flight Center is and having had my father help put men on the moon, I have delt and rubbed elbows with these guys for a long time. NASA was off on some regal royal hunt rather than doing the job right. The best evidence is B. Rattan and his X Prize effort. All he did was take the proved existing 1950's era tech and build it up with any modern available stuff. It works!

I have been to events where NASA leadership was present and private speakers were trying to get the space program advanced. I told them to listen because I learned the proposals and I knew they would work. I have been to events where the men were "begging for new ideas." They didn't want any because I gave them some.

I have seen launched from Redstone Airfield over 70,000 pounds to an altitude of over 90,000 feet using NO Fuel what so ever. I watched it! I told them to use the balloon launch like that to get the material above the atmosphere and then rockets above. They said it was "Impossible." The problem is that these guys don't have the calm casual thinking that if I take two days to get to orbit it beats taking 10 years development and a 10 minute launch. They are also attached to launch at a specific location and need yanked out of florida!

Recovery is another thing that these men are stinkers on. The Shuttle heat shield system is impossibly complex and completely unnecessary. Burt Rattan has proved that! The Russians proved it too! Russians recovered using Oak soaked in salt water heat shields for a long time! It worked! Even a retrofit disposable heat shield using (GASP!) Asbestos would work just fine! The current heat shield tiles are nothing but a second rate asbestos anyway. (Check the chemistry if you doubt this)

Being a child of the space race I know what these IDIOTS who get too much pay and who are to arrogant act like. I know their history very well. They need fired. But like very bureaucracy if you order mass firings of these idiots, only the working shlepps down at the bottom will get shed, not the morons at the top.

Re:If it ain't broke... (1)

minus_273 (174041) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229631)

well the the surrent problems with the heat shield ae because clintion signed an executive order making them comply with EPA regulations..

Re:If it ain't broke... (1)

reallocate (142797) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229672)

Rutan's initial effort didn't need to deal with reentry at orbital speeds and didn't prove much of anything. His Spaceship One design won't work to and from LEO. For that, he'll need a heat shield like everyone else.

Re:If it ain't broke... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13229770)

Cluckshot you are "go" for using a spell-checker at this time. We also suggest you perform the proof reading maneuver.

Re:If it ain't broke... (0)

drsquare (530038) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229788)

Mod parent down, he's blatantly lying.

The Shuttle heat shield system is impossibly complex and completely unnecessary. Burt Rattan has proved that!

By Burt Rattan, he actually means Burt Rutan [wikipedia.org] , a designer of a spaceship. However this spaceship did not enter orbit, it merely got lifted into the air by another plane, then rose to a mere 100km. As he didn't get into orbit, his craft did not require the heat shielding required of real spaceships.

The hardest parts of flying a spaceship are getting into orbit, and re-entering the atmosphere. Rutan's ship didn't have to do either of these, as it didn't enter orbit. This means he has not solved any of the problems of spacetravel.

People should stop bringing this up in every shuttle discussion, it's no more relevant than be throwing a brick in the air and claiming it's a spaceship.

Being a child of the space race...

Now that really is the most stupid thing I've ever read, thinking you're some sort of special expert because your dad worked at NASA or something.

I know what these IDIOTS who get too much pay and who are to arrogant act like.

Can someone translate?

Re:If it ain't broke... (1)

CosmeticLobotamy (155360) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229834)

The best evidence is B. Rattan and his X Prize effort. All he did was take the proved existing 1950's era tech and build it up with any modern available stuff. It works!

I love Burt, and I hope he keeps working, but from Wiki:

"a spacecraft must reach about 29,000 km/h (18,000 mph) to attain orbit. This compares to the relatively modest 4,000-4,800 km/h (2,500-3,000 mph) typically attained for sub-orbital crafts."

He's got a ways to go. Even farther because his ship has no computer control, would burn up on orbital re-entry, and only got as high as it did because they used the skinniest pilot they could find.

Re:If it ain't broke... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13229698)

Stop signing your posts, you fucking cretin. If by chance you happened to say something that wasn't utterly retarded and I wanted to know your name, I'd look at the top of your post were it's displayed in all it's retarded glory for all to see.

Fucking peon.

Re:If it ain't broke... (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229722)

Yeah it works, other than the fact it costs billions just to sit on the ground, and billions to put it up. Also don't mention the extremely long turnover time, its unsuitability as an unmanned vehicle, its low capacity as a manned vehicle, the way it needs giant loud rockets to take off, the way the heat-proof tiles fall to pieces if they get breathed on, the fact that the shuttle is disintegrated by mere rain, and not to mention the ten million other problems. It's within budget because the budget is $17 billion a year.

What makes you think a 1981 design can't be improved upon in 24 years?

Nice mod system... (1)

crow_t_robot (528562) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229499)

...homos. Frosty Piss? Maybe?

Re:Nice mod system... (1)

donscarletti (569232) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229574)

When you have a starting score of -1, you don't need to be modded down for nobody to read your post.

Re:Nice mod system... (1)

crow_t_robot (528562) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229589)

And, just because you suck a lot of slashdot dick and have high karma doesn't mean you are slick enough to notice that the mod system has been fucked up for about the last ten articles.

Holy moly... (0)

ZenShadow (101870) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229501)

I've been here for a long time and never managed to snap up the claim to first post.

I guess there's a First Post for everything :-)

Re:Holy moly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13229512)

Looks like you might be here even longer :)

Re:Holy moly... (1)

taskforce (866056) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229520)

However, not everything exists yet.

Re:Holy moly... (1)

ZenShadow (101870) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229533)

It's way too early in the morning for me to wrap my brain around that statement, esp. considering I haven't slept yet...

Re:Holy moly... (1)

ceeam (39911) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229540)

I'll give you an idea (heck, moderation is broken anyway, so what the fuck):

- Figure out the URL for comments submission form.
- Wait till a new story comes up. When it does it usually has a "Nothing to see..." page. Note the SID and edit the submission URL.
- _Paste_ your junk into textarea.
- Slowly count to 20. Submit.

Not sure if it works now, but I faintly recall that it did.

Errrr... (0)

Phidoux (705500) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229505)

Will it have any foam insulation?

Re:Errrr... (1)

jasongetsdown (890117) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229519)

Most likely yes, but below any critical payload.
Without the foam the fuel tank would become covered in ice, needlessly raising the weight of the launch vehicle.

Re:Errrr... (1)

samsonov (581161) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229534)

They could do blown in or fiberglass too (mixing some old technology with new?) More types of insulation [ornl.gov] could be used too.

Re:Errrr... (1)

gordo3000 (785698) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229565)

probably, the insulation has been a problem with repsect to where it is when taking into account where things like heat shields are. The foam insulation itself is a requirement to help safe guard the fuel tanks.

Re:Errrr... (1)

Shads (4567) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229623)

It doesn't matter. That's what is a prime component of this design, if insulation breaks off and falls it doesn't damage heat shields used in re-entry.

Yes, but so what? (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229690)

On the space shuttle the foam insulation struck the exposed heat shield of the orbiter. With the new design, which I really like, the insulating foam is below the crew compartment. The heat shield for the "spam can" on top is safely protected by the cargo container skirt. The external tank can shed foam and there are no critical parts exposed to damage. Should something like an engine nozzle get damaged, the crew compartment can be separated with the escape launcher on top.

This design is more efficient, cheaper to build, a lot safer and can carry more cargo into orbit. Ballistic recovery may not be glamorous but it is time tested and reliable.

Wings on a space ship are what you get when pilots are in charge of the space program instead of engineers.

Shuttle (1)

ntufar (712060) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229510)

Q: What is the difference between Russian space rocket and the Shuttle?
A: Russian rocket burn in the atmosphere, Shuttle is reusable.

Q: What is the difference between a cosmonaut and an astronaut?
A: Astronauts burn in the atmosphere, cosmonauts are reusable.

Live coverage of current mission (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13229516)

kinda OT, but you can view the live coverage of the current mission via nasatv here:

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html [nasa.gov]

Amazing coverage (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229674)

They've just pulled the first gap filler out without a problem and are lining up on the second one.

I've been watching it for an hour or so and it's amazing watching them go calmly about their work with the earth in the background.

OT: Mod point suddenly rare? (0)

MrLogic17 (233498) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229536)


Any one else noticed that very few posts are getting mod points? I have a few possible ideas why:
-Suddenly most slashdotters get a life
-Something's broke that divvies out mod points
-A long overdue re-vamping of how many mod points are given out

Anyone have official dirt?

Re:OT: Mod point suddenly rare? (0)

skatephat420 (803185) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229566)

Ya subscribe you get 4 points for nothing.

Re:OT: Mod point suddenly rare? (-1, Offtopic)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229660)

Something's broke that divvies out mod points

This appears to be the case. Perhaps they lost the database which is used to decide who gets mod points? Perhaps it is broken?

We will know it is working if this post gets modded OT

Re:OT: Mod point suddenly rare? (0)

Archibald Buttle (536586) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229676)

Yeah - it definitely seems screwed.

I usually browse at +5, which means I'm looking at a front page here with no comments to read on any article.

Re:OT: Mod point suddenly rare? (0, Offtopic)

dan dan the dna man (461768) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229700)

I browse at +3 and get much the same! I get fairly frequent mod points, I metamod daily, I haven't had a sniff of mod points this week, which is unusual..

Re:OT: Mod point suddenly rare? (1)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229900)

Same situation here. MetaMod working. Modding not working. Maybe someone will figure out why. Back to work now.

Re:OT: Mod point suddenly rare? (0, Offtopic)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229855)

I'm glad someone else noticed... I remember very clearly having some mod points one day that disappeared.

Re:OT: Mod point suddenly rare? (0, Offtopic)

earthlingpink (884677) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229890)

I thought it was just the case that everyone had been making really lousy comments for a couple of days...

Re:OT: Mod point suddenly rare? (1)

NinjaFarmer (833539) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229903)

There isn't a single modded up comment in this thread. That implies that mod points are not just rare, but non existant.

Mars exploration (1)

asliarun (636603) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229537)

Hopefully, the fact that we just discovered an ice lake in Mars [esa.int] should provide NASA its much needed funding. On a slightly different note, why can't NASA work with private contractors to outsource their delivery vehicle research? I can understand their concerns of technology getting leaked, but don't the defense departments do it all the time? This can only benefit space research, right?

Re:Mars exploration (1)

gummyb34r (899393) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229635)

An ice lake - no big deal. If they found some terrorists or a totalitarian society... On a more serious note. We still have problems with ISS on the Earth orbit! The only nation that would dare sending smb to Mars is China. They have pride to do it to write its page in the Space exploration history. The other option - a combined effort of Russia, USA and others - unreal at best.

Re:Mars exploration (1)

Professor_UNIX (867045) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229869)

On a slightly different note, why can't NASA work with private contractors to outsource their delivery vehicle research? I can understand their concerns of technology getting leaked, but don't the defense departments do it all the time?

They do work with private contractors. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, etc.

Jets! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13229541)

Apparently if you put Jet Engine Research on your resume when you apply at NASA, you're not even granted an interview.

They have no interest whatsoever in using jets to bring rockets up to high-altitude flight. Why? Because it's cheap. The truth is, NASA can not come up with enough missions to justify the low cost of jets and they're afraid that if they lowered their costs in such a way that they would end up with massive budget cuts.

Amazing.

Budget (1)

Ripp (17047) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229542)

Unfortunately, it probably is the best they can feasably come up with given the budget pinch they're under. There is already a huge infrastructure in place for testing and launch of L/SRB vehicles. To totally re-design everything from scratch would cost just way too much. Unfortunately.

On top of that if we are planning on re-visiting the moon before the Chinese get there, and going to Mars, then continuing the rocket program seems logical.

Let the privateers handle the space freight trucking industry IMO.

And Politics (1)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229567)

And don't forget the number of employees currently producing shuttle parts. That the new approach keeps everyone in their current jobs makes a number of politicians very happy.

I agree that redesigning everything from scratch is painful and expensive. I also suspect that the decision wasn't completely technical.

Re:Budget (1)

builderbob_nz (728755) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229592)

Let the privateers handle the space freight trucking industry IMO.

Ahh, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't privateer just a way of saying government sanctioned pirate?

Re:Budget (1)

reallocate (142797) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229663)

>> ...continuing the rocket program seems logical.

What other program did you have in mind?

Re:Budget (1)

Ripp (17047) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229738)

I was thinking of the re-usable launch vehicle concept they'd been toying around with, along with stuff like what Rutan (sp?) has been doing... As opposed to the standard 'controlled explosion' they're doing now :)

Re:Budget (1)

reallocate (142797) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229800)

The reusable vehicle concept they've been "toying" with is the Shuttle. You may have noticed it has issues. The only advantage of reuse is cost savings. Shuttle has demonstrated that those cost savings are not there. As for Rutan, his techniques, edpecially his reentry technique, only work for a vehicle coming back at the very slow speed of 3000 mph. It won't work from orbit. (His Spaceship One is incapable of reaching orbit, but, if it had, it would have burned to a cinder on reentry.) If Rutan sends a vehicle into orbit, it will have a big slab of a heat shield, too.

Orion (1)

DreadCthulhu (772304) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229543)

How about using a Project Orion type launcher- that way NASA can throw spacecraft the size of aircraft carriers into space. As for the enviromentalists, they can be used as neutron absorbers.

Re:Orion (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229578)

In all seriousness, the Chinese could actually pull that off, since they don't have to worry about environmentalists. It would be pretty cool, even if it weren't us doing it.

No, not Orion; the Nuclear Lightbulb (1)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229638)

You don't have to vent radioactive exhaust to get the benefits of nuclear energy for thrust. See here [nuclearspace.com] .

Bring them home safely (1)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229544)

The first order of space flight ought to be the safety of the crew, not how many pounds of payload can be shoved into orbit by bigger and bigger rocket engines. NASA, in a completely predictable move, sent the shuttle up unprepared and now we are watching in horror as the astronauts forego any attempt at the scientific experiments they went up for, instead fighting for their lives with a stick of velcro and some prayers from the world.

Maybe it's time to take NASA out of the equation. Fund some of these little guys like Rutan and Carmack and get some real money behind people with actual egos that stand to get destroyed if something tragic happens. NASA is led by bureaucrats who wouldn't know which end of the main booster rocket is up if it had a big sign saying "this end up". Better to scrap the entire division, separate off those aspects that are useful to the military and give the rest to the public.

NASA has shown that they have neither the brains nor the patience to do things correctly. It is time that they step out of the way and let people with dreams lead the way into space.

Mod Parent -1 Douchebag (1)

jasongetsdown (890117) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229594)

sorry for the inflamatory title, but can you really be serious?

Rutan et al. are finding creative new ways to loft humans on parabolic trajectories that touch space but they are FAR from LOE. I do not discount their ingenuity or innovation, but they do not have the recourses to launch the kinds of payloads that are going to get us back to the Moon or Mars.
The "little guys" should be welcomed into the process as contractors and researchers. Their fresh ideas can add new vitality to the space program but they are not a replacement.

IMHO the new NASA designs are a breath of fresh air. Simple and effective.

Why go to space (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229704)

The "little guys" should be welcomed into the process as contractors and researchers

Rutan et al. are needed because the world (including the USA) doesn't know why they need a space program. During apollo there was a race with the USSR, who have since ceased to exist.

NASA existed because of the space race. Consequently the prime reason for the ISS is to do microgravity research, with no reasons being offered for requiring microgravity research.

Whe whole basis of the manned space program needs to be rethought, which is why the 100k prize was such a good thing to have.

Re:Bring them home safely (1)

reallocate (142797) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229754)

>>...NASA, in a completely predictable move, sent the shuttle up unprepared and now we are watching in horror as the astronauts forego any attempt at the scientific experiments they went up for, instead fighting for their lives with a stick of velcro and some prayers from the world.

That statement is fundamentally wrong and verges on the hysterical, probably deliberately so.

There's been no reduction of Discovery's mission (which is not a scientific mission in the first place). The crew are not "fighting for the lives" and only the misinformed and misled think their situation merits prayer.

As for Rutan, he hasn't demonstrated the ability to do anything but use tiny airpland to coast to 60 miles at 3000 mph. Why should taxpayers pay him to send 7 people into LEO at 18000 mph when he lack that capability. Let him build it first.

As for Carmack, well, surely you are making a joke. He hasn't gotten anthing more than a few feet off the ground.

Unless you want to wave an "I Don't Know hat I'm Talking About" flag in public, maybe you ought to clam up until you learn a bit more.

No, it's not "the best". But it makes sense. (1)

jht (5006) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229550)

We (meaning the US government/Russia/ESA), still want to use humans in LEO, and we want to keep the ISS in operation for the foreseeable future. The Space Shuttle has been a reasonably effective way to do that, but has shown it's age and the limitations of the "reusable space plane" approach. If it costs the same or more money to launch the Shuttle than it does to send "traditional" rockets into LEO, why not use traditional rockets instead?

Not only that, but this plan seems to recycle the best parts of the Shuttle design, increase human safety, and probably lower operational costs as well. Plus the cargo configuration can hoist more than the Shuttle - a lot more.

Politically, the US government (operator of the Shuttle), is not really willing to accept that flying the Shuttle is inherently dangerous, so NASA operates under very rigid safety guidelines. Then again, we've seen on TV what happens when those guidelines get bent too far (twice so far), and when you see astronauts die on TV it tends to dull the political appetite for risk.

So I think this plan that's coming out is a good one, given that we as a society do not seem to be willing to accept that going to space is risky, rockets can and will fail, and people can and will likely be killed on occasion in the process. They seem to be focusing on simply using the safest technologies from today's designs and re-engineering them to reduce the risk of failure and the likelihood of a catastrophic incident in the event of a failure. With a cost lower than today's system. A good engineering and political solution to what is basically a political problem.

It's not old, it's refined (1)

WegianWarrior (649800) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229568)

The solid rocket boosters used for the shuttle today is reliable, reasonable safe (as safe as anything can be in space I guess) and not at least very cheap for the power they deliver. A capsule, in the mould of Apollo or Soyuz, is cheap(ish), can be made reusable (I would assume - allthought it might be cheaper to make them recyclable) and has a proven track record. A rescue rocket mounted on top of a capsule is simple and has a proven trackrecord (IFAIK, one russian capsule was saved by it). I think it's a brilliant idea; it's not old - it's refined. Take the best we got today and make it better, as opposed to inventing the Wheel Mk. II.

Re:It's not old, it's refined (1)

Blitzenn (554788) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229591)

""

Where the heck do you get that from? EVERY shuttle accident was caused by a problem from those boosters. From 'O' Rings to insulation. They were not shuttle poblems, but booster problems.

"Take the best we got today and make it better, as opposed to inventing the Wheel Mk. II."

When you start with crap, we should build on it because it's the best we have? We should through the whole program out the window and stop blowing billions per launch 9well 1 billion per launch anyways) on a piece of crap system. The death of the shuttle would be the best thing that happened for the US space program in decades. Just the money used from one shuttle launch could have put 8 rovers on Mars. Think of it. We waste billions on something because of what? Pride? get over it. It's time to start making wise decisions not politically correct ones.

Re:It's not old, it's refined (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13229688)

You are a dumbass. There's no insulation on the SOLID rocket boosters, you moron. Now shut up, let the adults talk and go back to your Web design or whatever it is you do...

Re:It's not old, it's refined (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229689)

"Where the heck do you get that from? EVERY shuttle accident was caused by a problem from those boosters. From 'O' Rings to insulation. They were not shuttle poblems, but booster problems."

No it wasn't. The foam came off the tank, not the SRB.

Equally, had the astronauts been in a capsule on top of the SRB when Challenger's SRB started to leak, they'd have hit the 'Abort' button and come floating down by parachute. The only reasons Challenger was destroyed were because the SRBs were on the _side_ of the fuel tank and the escaping hot gas burnt through the tank, and because it was a winged vehicle that broke up easily under aerodynamic stress, not a simple capsule that can take a beating and hold together.

Re:It's not old, it's refined (1)

WegianWarrior (649800) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229703)

Where the heck do you get that from? EVERY shuttle accident was caused by a problem from those boosters. From 'O' Rings to insulation. They were not shuttle poblems, but booster problems.

Challenger [wikipedia.org] blew up because someone at NASA decided to ignore the fact that the guys who had designed the solid fuel boosters told them not to launch in the cold weather - and the boosters was redesigned afterwards to allow for even better margins. Operating any sort of equipment outside the design envelope is asking for trouble. Please explain how human error, probaly caused by polical preasure, renders the actuall design of the solid fuel boosters into 'crap'?

Colombia [wikipedia.org] burnt up on re-entry because the heat shield was damaged by falling foam from the external fuel tank. I don't see quite how this relate to the solid fuel boosters, even if it does show that mounting your payload on the side of your rocket isn't the brightest idea NASA have come up with.

My conclusion still stands: Using the relativly cheap, reusable and allready manrated solid fuel boosters [wikipedia.org] to launch a reusable/recyclable capsule sounds like the best idea NASA had in a long time - and on budget too.

Site already getting slow... (1)

Shadows (121287) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229584)

nyud.net cache link [nyud.net] .

Complain complain, moan moan, there should be cache links in article summaries. I mean, how hard is it with nyud.net?

What about... (1)

Shads (4567) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229609)

... space planes? Take off and land just like an airplane. Whatever happened to that idea?

Re:What about... (1)

bradbury (33372) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229708)

You have a real problem about how to get it up to the speed required for orbit and then back down to a speed which can land. Planes deal with a significantly reduced set of velocities and acceleration and deceleration requirements.

Look at SpaceShip One... (1)

OmniGeek (72743) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229841)

I agree that a space plane faces a problem of operating in two very different environments, but there are ways...

A two-part launch system is a good candidate for a practical, reusable "space plane" system. Scaled Composites' White Knight/SpaceShip One concept is a good example of this; use a plane for the first 30,000 feet and 300 MPH, and a rocket for the out-of-atmosphere leg, leaving the plane in the air where it belongs.

(Recall that the Shuttle uses most of its fuel load, representing a significant fraction of total vehicle mass, to get a few hundred feet of altitude and a few dozen MPH velocity. Eliminate that fraction of the fuel load, and the vehicle becomes MUCH lighter and smaller.)

Another example of this approach is Orbital Systems' small-satellite launcher, Pegasus; this system is a small rocket launched from under the wing of a B-52 at altitude. They've had several launch failures (space flight is HARD, I know, I'm a rocket scientist), but the concept is very, very sound.

Of course it's not the best! (1)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229615)

To do that, we need to go nuclear [nuclearspace.com] . No, not Orion - there are several designs that don't vent radioactive exhaust and you can even use them to get rid of nuclear waste.

Re:Of course it's not the best! (1)

jasongetsdown (890117) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229696)

so, according the their website, the main reason to go back to space with nuclear tech is that its the logical next step from Extreme Sports?

Not Remix of 1960's/1970's Tech (1)

reallocate (142797) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229626)

The story demonstrates a lot of ignorance about technology. By looking at a few images, the writer leaps to the bogus conclusion that NASA is planning a remix of 1960's and 1970's engineering. All this only because the CEV will have a conical shape and sit at the top of the launch vehicle.

This is more than a bit like criticizing F-117 Stealth aircraft as a mix of 1920's and 1940's tech: Look at any picture of planes in the '20's and you'll see wings and the jet engine was flying in the '40's. So, since the Stealth has wings and a jet engine, it must be engineering that picked up the decades ago. Right?

Look: Rockets will propel our launch vehicles for the forseeable future. You have only 2 places to attach a payload to a rocket: the top and the side. As Shuttles compromised design shows, putting the payload on the side puts it at risk from anything that falls off (and something always will); it also introduces uniue engineering problems; putting the payload at the top of the vehicle eliminates the threat from debris and, also, allows the use of crew escape devices, something essentially impossible in the current Shuttle.

The fact that the CEV shares a concical shape with Apollo is irrelevant. That's the logical shape for a vehicle reentering the atmosphere at 25,000 mph or more. Wings are totally useless (Shuttle's wings don't -- can't -- work until after reentry.) The reason you put wings on something is when you want to fly somewhere in an atmosphere. The CEV is a space vehicle- it won't be doing any flying.

The crew compartment of the CEV -- the conical piece with the heat shield -- is a crew ferry intended to take people to and from LEO. it's time to start thinking of it as just that.

The reporting on these "leaked" CEV and VSE architecture plans has been dismal, wallowing in mistakes and lack of expertise. Slashdot, not surprisingly, is shouting "Me, too!"

Re:Not Remix of 1960's/1970's Tech (1)

Danathar (267989) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229731)

They ARE looking at upgrading the design for the J2S engines from the Saturn 4/5 in one of the designs, so I would say it IS a remix of technology from the past.

They did'nt say if they would strip a J2 engine from somewhere or completely re-create it. I'd imagine they would take one from an existing Saturn V since re-tooling to create a J2 engine would probably be expensive.

Re-Tooling (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229874)

No, they are going to go back to the schematics and make some changes and re-tool it. The certification scheme wouldn't allow for just taking a J2 off the shelf. And there aren't enough just lying around anyways to support the space program.

-everphilski-

Re:Re-Tooling (1)

Danathar (267989) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229926)

Makes sense....although currently Rocketdyne (now owned by Pratt/Whitney I think) does'nt currently make the J2 (has'nt for 30 years) so I'd imagine it's no small order to modifiy and re-tool for it.

Re:Not Remix of 1960's/1970's Tech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13229818)

Total agreement...As a former Nasa employee, aome decisions that are made in order to adopt "new" tech, are not necessarily the best. Take the stupidity to eradicate the maintaining of the US Heavy Lift capabilities of the past. Yeah, Saturn wasn't sexy in terms of modern tech, but simple is better. Also look at the complexity of engine balance thrust routines required for off axis thrust vectors due to the burn of the main, the decrease of mass in the External, and the SRBs is pretty crazed compared to the relative simplicity of single axis compensation required by a Saturn or similar. Von Braun had some cool simplistic ideas that work well and are amazingly efficient.
Yeah, update the controls, but the physics need to be simplified back to tried and true methods, and lets get some decent heavy lift capability back in our camp (Titan and its various incarnations is hardly a Saturn). Right now we have nothing and have relied on other countries for heavy lift.
If we do have a commitment for Moon, Mars, and beyond, this needs to be done soon...

Ill-informed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13229642)

"However, is this coupling of old technology and designs really the best we can do?"

This is some really ill-informed commentary. There is a _lot_ of new research and engineering work being done for the CEV, as anyone from Boeing, Lockheed, or any of the associated subs bidding on the work. The idea that, somehow, we're just strapping a shuttle on top of a 1950's booster rocket is laughable.

Is the CEV going to be as sexy as the shuttle? No. But there's a lot of support at NASA proper for scrapping the thing come 2010. Most /.'ers don't really get what's going on with regards to CEV, I think.

-Erwos

Kliper (1)

tenco (773732) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229649)

Just look at Kliper [wikipedia.org] which is basically a Soyuz capsule. ESA and Roskosmus have plans to build it till 2011.

Shuttle now boarding... (1)

avkb03 (684477) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229658)

A lot of one way tickets being sold to space these days...

Old Technique, Not Technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13229662)

NASA will be using an old technique (capsul and booster) with modern technology (electronics, robotics, etc). Cars still use the basic technique (combustion engine to power a drivetrain), but use modern day technology (variable valve timing, fuel injection, etc).

Frist psOt! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13229666)

From a te3hnical Of various BSD All our times have

moo (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13229686)

i am a script

Not the worst we could do, but... (1)

blackhedd (412389) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229691)

Notice that the story is about a guy with a partisan interest in the outcome- he's a Thiokol engineer and they make the solid-fuel boosters for the current shuttle. These boosters are the heart of the proposal, and my only question is, do we want solid fuel rockets as the primary lifter for human crews? Don't they present special challenges and risks because they can't be shut down in case of problems? Just asking, IANA astronautical engineer.

Apart from that, this seems like a good blending of proven tech from the shuttle project with a more clear-eyed view of overall project goals, with favorable economics.

The original poster asks, "can't we do better"? As long as we are relying on combustion of chemical fuels, I don't think there's any need to do "better." A quantum leap forward in lift technology will have to await a new type of propulsion, which is at least decades away. In the meantime, let's get busy!

Just ditch them! (1)

No Such Agency (136681) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229744)

These boosters are the heart of the proposal, and my only question is, do we want solid fuel rockets as the primary lifter for human crews? Don't they present special challenges and risks because they can't be shut down in case of problems?

Yeah but strapped to the sides of the stack, they can just be jettisoned if they start to misbehave. It's not like the crew & payload would survive a major liquid-fueled engine malfunction on launch anyway.

So just lose them and abort. Your ensuing news photo looks like Challenger... but with a capsule parachuting down .

Re:Not the worst we could do, but... (1)

JT27278 (589969) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229809)

do we want solid fuel rockets as the primary lifter for human crews? Don't they present special challenges and risks because they can't be shut down in case of problems?

This is a very commonly asked question. In reality, once the vehicle is launched, the last thing the astronaut crew would want to do is shut down the main engines. The most reliable liquid rocket engine manufactured today is the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME), and the most reliable solid rocket motor is the SRB. Recent Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA) analysis for the Space Shuttle show that the contribution to risk during launch from the SRBs is an order of magnitude less than from the SSMEs. Also, shutting down a liquid rocket engine is not trivial. An important parameter used to look at the effects of shutting down a liquid rocket engine, which is suffering a malfunction, is what is referred to as the "catastrophic failure ratio." This is defined as the percent of time that an engine will fail catastrophically. The accepted value for current rocket engines is 20-30%. The SSME and the J-2 are the only engines with in-flight shutdown capability in response to malfunctions. Even if the engine is designed to enable in-flight shutdown, there are failure modes that will be catastrophic for both liquid and solid rocket motor designs. The advantage of a solid rocket motor is that the chance of having a catastrophic failure is less likely. This is due to its simplicity relative to the liquid design. In the event of a catastrophic failure, a solid rocket motor actually provides more reaction time and better survivability for a launch escape system to protect the crew. Most catastrophic failures of a solid rocket motor actually result in a phenomenon referred to as thrust augmentation, which is easily detected by an In-Vehicle Health Monitoring System (IVHM), which can be used to signal the Launch Escape System. From the FAQ at http://www.safesimplesoon.com/ [safesimplesoon.com]

Ok, makes sense, but... (1)

blackhedd (412389) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229870)

I'll buy the analysis which holds the solid-fuel rocket is far more reliable, and of course in a space program where manned launches are "routine," the payoff is huge.

But now you have to engineer a crew-escape mechanism in case of a serious problem during the boost phase. Can we improve on the Mercury-era "escape tower," basically a rocket-powered ejection seat? We need to enable a safe, reliable crew recovery at any point from liftoff till the solid booster burns out, which occurs at a significant altitude and distance downrange.

Mercury escape tower... (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229889)

Mercury escape tower does just that. Coupled with a few heavy lift helicopters for CEV recovery and you are good to go. Escape tower has always been part of the plans for a top-mounted CEV.

Individual ejection seats are a Bad Idea when you are going supersonic.

-everphilski-

Re:Mercury escape tower... (1)

blackhedd (412389) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229918)

IIRC, the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo escape towers were engineered primarily to deal with problems on liftoff. It's not too many minutes into the flight that you're 1000 miles downrange and way out of the breathable atmosphere. What then?
Serious improvements are clearly needed, even if the basic design is workable.
Also, the early towers were very very dangerous- the few times they went off in tests and simulations, they did an awful lot of damage. They were really a last-ditch hope.

Big Dumb Booster (1)

footnmouth (665025) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229692)

Stephen Baxter the British Sci-Fi author came up with the concept of re-using shuttle technology to get into space in his manifold series of books (and in Titan...). Seems like a good idea, but I would hope they could create some parrallel streams of development - side launch for ISS completion with minimum build requirements, full-stack to come on stream a few years later, and then a 3rd project to build a new launch system that can utlise something like the Rutan idea with enough power to get to ISS. ISS could then become a staging post that is resupplied by unmanned boosters.

No, it's not the best 'we' can do... (1)

kslater (142595) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229699)

if by 'we' you mean humankind. By entrusting the furthering of space travel to government agencies, you are pretty much guaranteeing the launching of rhino's into space. You want a new, reusable and sensible launch vehicle? Take 500 million or a billion out of NASA's budget and offer it to the first team that put a crew of 4 (8?) up to the space station and back, and then again within 1 month of touchdown with no serious injuries and watch what happens.

When the state launches pioneers out into the unknown and they get killed, it's a state tragedy. When a pioneer launches out on his (or their) own and gets killed, he's a pioneer who died in pursuit of his dream.

Re:No, it's not the best 'we' can do... (1)

oostevo (736441) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229913)

While I'm all in favor of contests for private space flight, what you suggest is really kind of silly -- You are suggesting that we encourage amateurs to launch a bunch of rockets at the space station, which countries all over the world are going to pay about $100 billion for over the lifetime of the program. I have a feeling those other countries might not like that so very much.

Old and New Tech is the BEST Idea (2, Insightful)

ausoleil (322752) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229707)

The original poster posits: "However, is this coupling of old technology and designs really the best we can do?"

Apparently, s/he misunderstands how aerospace technology works: you stay with things that work and improve upon those things that have been problems in the past.

For example: When Wehrner Von Braun and his team set out to design the Saturn V, Boeig was tasked with building the most difficult part, the first stage, or S1-C.

Did they use new technology? In some cases, yes. For the rocket engines, no. The F-1 engines were actually initially designed by the Air Force in the mid 1950's. Boeing instead took the basic design of the F-1, improved it with better construction techniques, better materials and of course, new tubo-pumps, but nonetheless, the basic design of the F-1 stayed what it was.

Later, the S1-C flew flawlessly on every launch but one: on Apollo 6, there was a problem with "pogo-ing," which is a severe reverberation along the axis of the rocket. At that point, they re-studied the issue and re-engineered the ignitors of the engines, and the S1-C was the most impressive weight-lifter in human history from there on.

That's a for example. In the Shuttle design, there is a lot of work on rocket design and implementation that would be crazy to throw away, not to mention extremely expensive to engineer. These are man-rated vehicles, and there, NASA is exceptionally conservative -- they will stay with they know works and create replacements for that they know does not.

This in not building a new computer CPU, or engineering a new product that a failure is tolerable. I would be very surprised and actually disappointed in NASA and their contractors if they were to toss out the baby with the bathwater, and am personally relieved that they are not.

They should call it Ariane 6 . . . (1)

RokcetScientist (900414) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229764)

Funny that, in hindsight, esa's 20-year old concept seems the wiser strategy . . . !

Old technology (1)

bgfay (5362) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229778)

"However, is this coupling of old technology and designs really the best we can do?"

I don't know if it's the best we can do, but there is something to be said for using older technology that works well and then adding new technology to it. I have had some good success using this weird operating system built on very old Unix technology and coupled with the newest version of Firefox and KDE.

Sometimes old things work very well and it pays to go back to them. As an example, back in the eighties stereo manufacturers went to push-button everything. Turns out that a volume knob is the best way to do things. Just because it comes from the old tube radio days doesn't mean that a volume knob shouldn't be used in the most advanced piece of stereo equipment.

And I wouldn't mind someone grafting bionic parts onto my body. That Steve Austin guy seemed to do okay with it.

Design Issues (1)

AtomicSnarl (549626) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229780)

Sucessful designs tend to hang around a while because they are sucessful. Autos still have four wheels mounted near the corners, just like the past 100 years. But the technology isn't old, just the proven design.

A fundamental design problem with the shuttle is the lightest part (the H2/LOx tank) carries the entire load of the system. It boils down to this:

1. The tank provides fuel to the shuttle
2. The shuttle main engines (SME) lift the shuttle only
3. The solid rocket boosters (SRB) lift the tank only
4. Any mismatch in "only" in 2 and 3 above is absorbed by the tank, and adjusted by the shuttle computers by gimbaling the SMEs
5. On the pad, the entire dead weight of the shuttle is hung on the tank, connected to the SRBs, thus torquing the whole setup. This torque is unloaded at launch, and the SMEs get to balance the SRB thrust and and stresses through the tank.

A do-able problem, but an engineering nightmare.

The Stack type rocket is, by comparison, much easier to build and operate. The load is on the top end, the fuel tanks carry a vertical load, and any crap that falls off (ice ice baby...) is in the throwaway zone immediately. Side boosters are easily added (Titan, Ariane, etc) and do not torque the vertical load.

The classic design of the Titan [wikipedia.org] rocket family is a good example of the flexibility of this system, in terms of the types and weights of payloads launchable.

Throwaway? Yes. The complexity incurred by insisting on completely or largely reusable space flight systems is the rub. An objective solution falls back to basic cost/benefit analysis. To put 100 tons in space, do you go with the $1Bn shuttle x 5 launchs, + refit/refurbish ($$$), or 5 Titan IVb launchs for rather less? What is the time value of your launch windows -- Refit/refurbish delay vs launch next the Titan off the assembly line?

And so on. You pays your money, and you makes your choice.

old tech runs a lot (1)

VolciMaster (821873) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229785)

There's an awful lot of 'old tech' out there. And it runs great. Or at least well enough. Think of all the copper running phone lines right now. Sure, it's been married to new technology like fiber optics and VoIP, but you can just as easily plug in an old rotary phone and start clicking away.

Puting the vehicle on top of the launch stack makes a great deal of sense. As does carrying the vehicle aboard a parent ship and then launching (SpaceShipOne, the X-15, etc).

No, it's not the best we CAN do... (1)

Theovon (109752) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229823)

But it may be the best we SHOULD do under the circumstances. Sounds like a good idea to me to recombine known quantities, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. Revolutions are good, when they work, but a gradual evolutionary path generally ensures that you have something working all the time. Small changes to an existing design are MUCH easier to test.

The best we can do (2, Interesting)

jmichaelg (148257) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229865)

The best we can do, energy wise, is nuclear propulsion. Back in the late 50's, we designed a nuclear bomb propelled ship. Initial enthusiasm for using it to get off the Earth waned when Freeman Dyson realized each launch would kill 10 people. At the time, we were firing off atmospheric nuclear bombs all the time with no perceptible ill effects so Dyson's realization wasn't obvious. For some, those 10 lives were offset by the knowledge that any large scale activity kills people.

To alleviate the problem, the Orion team proposed a hybrid solution - use Saturn-class chemical rockets to launch an Orion booster. They figured they could build an Orion-class ship that weighed around 150 tons, well within Saturn's ability to loft 400 tons.

NASA's current proposal takes us back to being able to re-consider Orion. What killed the idea was NASA's aversion to risk. There wasn't any appetite for developing a rocket engine that could only be fully tested in space.

The idea of using nukes for Earth launch never completed died. Ted Taylor, one of the Orion team members, figured he could design a nuclear bomb that didn't emit any radiation at all. Ironically, the neutron bomb was an outgrowth of his work.

However, "we've" GOT to develop... (1)

RokcetScientist (900414) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229898)

...radically more efficient methods of propulsion if "we're" ever to get past 'crawling' around in our astronomical backyard: earth orbit, the moon, and maybe, maybe Mars. Chemical propulsion is like a kid's tricycle: yep, it moves. But you won't get far on it.

Is it the best we can do? (1)

TomorrowPlusX (571956) | more than 9 years ago | (#13229923)

I am not a rocket scientist... but I imagine that, yes, perhaps it is the best we can do.

That is to say, given some caveats. Reading about the aborted space plane, it seems that we're having trouble developing materials that can really take the heat of re-entry. Ablating blast shields, while not re-usable, work really, *really* well.

Furthermore, the shuttle was just too complex. The ability to make machinery that complex that performs reliably is perhaps many years ahead of us, and we're ( I think rightfully ) impatient to do this work now, not in 100 years. Also consider the DC X ( or whatever it was called, Delta Clipper? ) which had such problems with cracks in the carbon fuel tanks and such. This stuff is *complicated*. We should continue researching it, but we need something that works *now*, not in x * 10 years. The Apollo tech worked, reliably. We can use our experience with the Shuttle to improve it. I say run with it.

I think the return to simplicity will do a lot for our space program. Plus, the experience we gain will aid in addressing the couple points I made above. Basically, I think we need more real experience in space before we design pie in the sky spacecraft. I personally think it's kind of like the "walk before you run" adage. The space shuttle represents us trying to run, before we really mastered crawling...
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