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The Story of Baikonur, Russia's Space City

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the you're-the-rocket-man dept.

Space 237

eldavojohn writes "There's an article up on Physorg about Russian space launch city Baikonur, rented by Russia from Kazakhstan. Although it is essentially the same as it was in the 60's and 70's, it is amazingly efficient and still operational. 'Even the technology hasn't changed much. The Soyuz spacecraft designed in the mid-1960s is still in service, somewhat modified. It can only be used once, but costs just $25 million. The newest Endeavor space shuttle cost $2 billion, but is reusable. Life and work in Baikonur and its cosmodrome are also pretty much what they were in the Soviet era. The town of 70,000 - unbearably hot in summer, freezing cold in winter and dusty year round - is isolated by hundreds of miles of scrubland.'" We last discussed Baikonur back in 2005.

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Borat, yes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21067531)

I am #1 cosmonaut in all of Kazakstan!

I'm sure someone can come up with a better joke.

Re:Borat, yes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21067543)

How about "In the soviet union, you embarrass that borat guy"

Re:Borat, yes? (0, Redundant)

blackdew (1161277) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067559)

In soviet Kazakhstan, the jokes come up (literaly) with YOU!

Ahhhh Father Russia !! God hope it burns in HELL (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21067731)

Ahhhh Father Russia !! God hope it burns in HELL !!

Costs (5, Informative)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067545)

This Nasa space shuttle faq [nasa.gov] lists endeavour's cost at 1.7 billion. Maybe they just rounded off, but a third of a billion seems significant to me.

It also lists the launch costs for a shuttle at about $450 million. I don't know if that's just the launch itself or if that includes the turn around costs. Of course - the article doesn't list similar numbers for the Soyuz - but it seems that while reusable - the shuttle still is exponentially more expensive. Although - I don't know of anything else that can get as much weight to orbit as the shuttle.

Re:Costs (2, Insightful)

tilandal (1004811) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067715)

The shuttle is much larger and can carry far more of a payload. The shuttle can carry up to 24,400 kg to low earth orbit, that is substantially more then the Soyuz can carry. Many of the segments of the ISS were only able to be lifted into orbit with the Shuttle.

Re:Costs (3, Informative)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068039)

The shuttle can carry up to 24,400 kg to low earth orbit, that is substantially more then the Soyuz can carry.

...is an understatement. Current Soyuz payload is 880kg.

the real difference (1)

G Fab (1142219) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068695)

the real difference is that the shuttle can bring things back to earth.

We don't hear about that ability being used, but it certainly is. It has military significance, too.

It would be a hell of a lot cheaper if the manned vessel and the cargo vessel were different ships, though.

Re:Costs (5, Informative)

slashqwerty (1099091) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067821)

I don't know of anything else that can get as much weight to orbit as the shuttle.

At 21,000 kg to LEO, the Ariane 5 ECA [wikipedia.org] comes pretty close. And it does a lot better than the shuttle [wikipedia.org] to Geostationary Transfer Orbit. The Delta IV [wikipedia.org] does slightly better than the shuttle at 25,800kg to LEO versus the shuttle's 24,400kg.

The Saturn V [wikipedia.org] could put them all to shame. Although the planned Ares V [wikipedia.org] can carry even more than the Saturn V.

Re:Costs (2, Interesting)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067949)

It can only be used once, but costs just $25 million. The newest Endeavor space shuttle cost $2 billion, but is reusable.

When I was a little boy, I sat in on one of my father's presentations on the (then future) space shuttle to interested people in the aviation community (he was with the FAA). The talk was glowing and emphasized how much we'd save by re-using this material. As a sci-fi enthusiast like my father, I remember being so excited about what I was hearing.

Sadly, that cost savings never came. I have read numerous reports about how much more that shuttle system costs than a traditional system. In my not-so-educated opinion, focus on the shuttle has left our space program behind where it would have been had we kept going with the tech we had at the time.

What's the next-gen shuttle going to cost us?

Re:Costs (3, Interesting)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068423)

Sadly, that cost savings never came. I have read numerous reports about how much more that shuttle system costs than a traditional system.

Going on the numbers given here, the Shuttle costs $18,400/kg lifted to LEO, while the Soyuz costs $28,400 for the same lift.

Re:Costs (2, Informative)

Daengbo (523424) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068559)

I wasn't comparing it to the Soyuz: I was comparing it to where we'd be now if we hadn't used it.

The NASA Chief Administrator Michael Griffin has recently suggested the decision to develop the Space Shuttle and International Space Station was a mistake by saying, "It is now commonly accepted that was not the right path. We are now trying to change the path while doing as little damage as we can."[1] [wikipedia.org]
and

While the Shuttle has been a reasonably successful launch vehicle, it has not met the goal of greatly reducing launch costs. There are various ways to measure per-launch costs. One way is dividing the total cost over the life of the program (including buildings, facilities, training, salaries, etc) by the number of launches. This method gives about $1.3 billion per launch[1]. Another method is calculating the incremental (or marginal) cost differential to add or subtract one flight -- just the immediate resources expended/saved involved in that one flight. This is about $55 million. Neither figure is right or wrong; they are simply different ways to examine the picture.

The total cost of the program has been $145 billion as of early 2005, and is estimated to be $174 billion when the Shuttle retires in 2010. NASA's budget for 2005 allocates 30%, or $5 billion, to Space Shuttle operations.

Original goals of the Shuttle included operating at a fairly high flight rate (roughly 12 flights per year, at low cost, and with high reliability. Improving in these areas over the previous generation of single-use and unmanned launchers was a motivation. Although it did operate as the world's first reusable crew-carrying spacecraft, it did not greatly improve on those parameters, and is considered by some to have failed in its original purpose.

Although the final design differs from the original concept, the project was still supposed to meet USAF goals and be much cheaper to fly in general. One reason behind this apparent failure is inflation. During the 1970s the U.S. suffered from severe inflation. Between when the program began in 1972, and first flight in April 1981, inflation increased prices over 200%. When evaluating shuttle development costs in later-year dollars, this superficially appeared to be a large cost overrun in the program. In fact when discounting inflation, the shuttle development program was within the initial cost estimate given to President Richard M. Nixon in 1971.

The high shuttle operational costs have been much more than anticipated, if counting all associated support resources (total expenditures, including development costs, divided by number of flights). Some of this can be attributed to a lower flight rate, operating beyond the 10-year anticipated lifespan of each Shuttle, and higher than anticipated maintenance costs. The marginal or incremental per launch costs have been about 50% more than early projections.

Some reasons for higher than expected operational costs can be ascribed to:

Maintenance of thermal protection tiles turned out to be very labour intensive, averaging about 1 personweek to replace a tile, with hundreds damaged with each launch.

The main engines were highly complex and maintenance intensive, necessitating removal and extensive inspection after each flight. Before the current "Block II" engines, the turbopumps (a primary engine component) had to be removed, dissembled, and totally overhauled after each flight.

Launch rate is significantly lower than initially expected. This does not reduce actual operating costs, but if dividing total program costs by number of launches, more launches per year produces a lower per-launch cost figure. Some early hypothetical studies examined 55 launches per year, but the maximum possible launch rate was limited to 24 per year, based on manufacturing capacity of the external tank. Early in the shuttle development, the expected launch rate was about 12 per year. Launch rates reached 9 per year in 1985 but averaged less thereafter.

Early cost estimates of $118 per pound of payload were based on marginal or incremental launch costs, and based on 1972 dollars and assuming a 65,000 pound payload capacity. Correcting for inflation and other factors, this equates to roughly $36 million incremental costs per launch. Compared to this, today's actual incremental per launch costs are about 50% more, or $55 million per launch.

Well, (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068659)

We do not have a next-gen shuttle coming. We have a LOAD of new crafts coming online over the next 4 years.
  1. In particular, Russia is still looking to develop their Kliper (I think that they have finally gotten wise and are just going it alone).
  2. China has their copy of the current Russian system.
  3. America is developing the Oriion capsule which will use the Ares I/Ares V rockets (possibly the Ares IV). The capsule will sit 7, and the launch costs for ppl will be 100M.
  4. Spacex is doing Falcon 9 with Dragon at 35 Million for 7 ppl (COTS figures in this).
  5. Scaled Composites has a space plane approach (similar to what was going to replace apollo, but Nixon pushed the current abomination on us), but costs are not known. It is expected to be no more than spacex's.
  6. Another COTS entry now that kistler is dead (thank GOD; it was another military abomination; it was a way to funnel money from NASA to military companies such as l-mart). The new one is likely to be spacedev's dream chaser, though I think that t/space has a shot at it as well. t/space has the same weaknesses as kistler; ran by more ex-military ppl, while spacedev is ran by businessmen similar to spacex.
  7. EADS is supposedly looking at doing at European space plane, but they have as much progress as Russia's kistler; sitting @ an idea.

So, to answer your question, I do not know. I do know that it will be a LOT cheaper very soon. Spacex has set the bar on that at about 5 million to launch a person. And the other launch systems will have to come close or beat it.

BTW, good to see you around again. You still in asia (thailand?)?

BTW, (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068711)

Sooner or later, either the DOD or NASA will get smart and push to have a tug up there. It will be a system that can stay in space for a long time, but can then maneuver to hook up with a number of crafts. I suspect that it will have a canada arm on the front of it. When that happens, I think that we will see space dev jump in there with a system that uses their hybrid rocket engine. In fact, I would not be surprised to see bigelow order up one or more of these.

Re:Costs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21068075)

Third of a billion is significant? You're obviously not a God fearing Republican. You must be one of those libruls who would rather spend money on domestic problems rather than spreading Jesus to the godless Brown people and oil control to Fearless Leader and his God-Fearing Business Pals. HOW CAN YOU PUT A PRICE TAG ON THAT?

Re:Costs (1)

Riktov (632) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068293)

the shuttle still is exponentially more expensive.

So Soyuz costs $25 million per launch, and the Shuttle currently costs $450 million per launch. 450,000,000 =~ 25,000,000 ^ 1.17. So the next Shuttle launch will cost 25,000,000 ^ 2.17 = $1,130,000,000,000,000? Or should that be 25,000,000 ^ 2.34 = $20,470,000,000,000,000?

Is that how it works?

Re:Costs (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068595)

THe soyuz is about 50 million a launch for 3 guys (russia charges about 25M for tourists; 1/2 of the costs). Russia also sends up progresses for doing supplies. THe progress costs about the same (50 M) for 3200 kg of payload. A shuttle costs ~450 Million / launch (depends on number of launches per year, which leaves the high fixed costs spread across those), but can deliver 7 astronauts AND 24,400 KG. That is, it delivers more than 2x the ppl AND about 8x the cargo. So, do 8 * 50 for the cargo and 2 x soyuz, and you are at about the same costs. The 2 big difference is that the shuttle is the only one able to add large sections to the ISS, while the progress is able to stay in orbit for a LONG time.

As to the weight issues, there are a number of launchers that can carry CLOSE to the shuttle, but not more. At this time, it is the largest.

Don't believe the $25 million (5, Funny)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067551)

It's just the sticker price. Then they hit you with the optional features like power steering and oxygen.

Re:Don't believe the $25 million (1)

empaler (130732) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068405)

It's just the sticker price. Then they hit you with the optional features like power steering and oxygen.
Not to mention insurance.

Would you bet on Soviet technology at an 80th the cost without having insurance?

Re:Don't believe the $25 million (2, Insightful)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068463)

maybe you should consider the safety records of Soyuz vs the shuttle, before making such statements...

Re:Don't believe the $25 million (2, Insightful)

aliquis (678370) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068601)

Yes.

Also you would probably save your government a hell of a lot of money if you let the russians produce the hardware.

If there is anything they do it's reliable stuff. (True for tanks, guns and whatever aswell.)

Soviet Russia (4, Insightful)

Stormx2 (1003260) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067553)

I know this may be a little controversial, but can we just skip all the "In Soviet Russia..." jokes? Regulars don't find them funny. They're only modded up by people who've just got mod points for the first time and want to fit in. Come on, be original!

Re:Soviet Russia (-1, Redundant)

nlitement (1098451) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067571)

In Soviet Russia, Slashdot mods YOU !!. Or which way was it?

In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21067585)

Slashdot fit you!

Re:Soviet Russia (2, Funny)

FlyByPC (841016) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067603)

Regulars don't find them funny.
Well, someone voted it Best Meme!

In Soviet Russia, the memes mod YOU!

Go Meme Yourself (2, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068243)

Calling a tired old joke a "meme" is pretentious crap. The word comes from Richard Dawkins's theory that some ideas are to culture what genes are to biology. I think that's an overrated theory, but even if I took it seriously (especially if I took seriously) I'd be irritated at people who think that telling the same joke over and over to the same audience is somehow spreading an idea. It's more like a social earworm [wikipedia.org] . Mindworm?

Re:Go Meme Yourself (1)

Skrapion (955066) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068565)

Your post counters the GP that you're otherwise agreeing with. The GP claims that the jokes get modded funny by new mods who haven't heard the joke, which means it is being spread.

And it's also pretty interesting how a joke can start in one small place on the Internet, and if you pay attention, you can watch it infect more and more Internet communities.

Re:Soviet Russia (1)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067609)

Oh I understand all of a sudden. YOU ARE the guy whose been posting that troll that starts something like

"I went into my local library bathroom and out comes this big blond guy from a stall..."

Re:Soviet Russia (-1, Redundant)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067617)

I agree, no more Soviet Russia jokes here. They are only funny in Soviet Russia

Re:Soviet Russia (0)

cyphercell (843398) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067765)

watch out guys, he's running with the mod squad, in soviet threads russia the trolls mod you! :)

Re:Soviet Russia (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21067631)

You do realize that requests like this are about as effective here as on the playground in elementary school? "Stop doing X" is seen as an invitation to "Do more of X" by people who want to annoy you. And there is no shortage of people who want to do that. :)

OK (0, Redundant)

yoprst (944706) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067643)

can we just skip all the "In Soviet Russia..." jokes? Regulars don't find them funny
Ok, but only once

Re:Soviet Russia (-1, Offtopic)

nacturation (646836) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067713)

I know this may be a little controversial, but can we just skip all the "In Soviet Russia..." jokes?
So... in Stormx2's Slashdot, Soviet Russia jokes skip you?
 

Re:Soviet Russia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21067727)

In soviet Russia jokes write you

Re:Soviet Russia (2, Insightful)

Neon Aardvark (967388) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067793)

I'm a regular, and I think "In Soviet Russia" jokes are funny precisely because they are so pointless and unfunny, just like the CowboyNeal poll options.

Re:Soviet Russia (1)

BungaDunga (801391) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068141)

In Soviet Russia, poll options you! ... Heh, yep, I still find them funny. In Soviet Russia, "In Soviet Russia" jokes find funny YOU!

Re:Soviet Russia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21067827)

They're only modded up by people who've just got mod points for the first time and want to fit in.

They should move to Soviet Russia then. Because in Soviet Russia, they want you to fit in.

In Putin's Russia (0)

Latent Heat (558884) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067939)

It's pretty much the same thing.

Re:Soviet Russia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21068019)

DON'T LISTEN TO PARENT POSTER, FOLKS.
He wants us to forgot about the Soviet Union, being the neo-Stalinist that he is!

Re:Soviet Russia (4, Funny)

techno-vampire (666512) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068051)

In Soviet Russia, memes don't find Slashdot regulars funny.

Re:Soviet Russia (1)

hasbeard (982620) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068133)

That's actually pretty good ;)

Re:Soviet Russia (1)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068059)

Regulars don't find them funny. They're only modded up by people who've just got mod points for the first time and want to fit in.

Yes, Mr Stormx2 1003260

Re:Soviet Russia (4, Funny)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068123)

You must be new here

Re:Soviet Russia (3, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068163)

In Soviet Russia, worn out jokes own you!

Actually, I suspect that many regulars do like the endless repetition of "in Soviet Russia" and "our x overlords". You and I get tired of hearing the same jokes over and over, but we might well be in the minority.

One problem is that the mod system give you a way to mod up good jokes, but no way to mod down bad ones. ("Overrated" is not supposed to be used for that, though it sometimes is.) So anybody who has a reaction to a story that's even vaguely humorous jumps in with it, because theres a good chance they'll be modded up.

Solution: balance the upmode "funny" with a new downmod: "lame".

Re:Soviet Russia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21068181)

I for one welcome our new "lame" moderating overlords.

Says who? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21068205)

I'm sorry, but who says they're not funny? Have you canvassed the regulars yourself? And as another poster pointed out, In Soviet Russia was voted as the best meme, which invalidates your assertion. Speaking of regulars, how does someone with a 1,000,000+ userid qualify as someone who speaks for the majority anyways? You'll be welcome back on my lawn when you can at least grow a beard. As to your call to be original, the trick to making an In Soviet Russia joke funny *is* to make it original.
 

Re:Soviet Russia (2, Funny)

Neurotoxic666 (679255) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068345)

In Soviet Russia, jokes mod YOU down.

Re:Soviet Russia (1)

zen-theorist (930637) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068419)

I know this may be a little controversial, but can we just skip all the "In Soviet Russia..." jokes? Regulars don't find them funny. They're only modded up by people who've just got mod points for the first time and want to fit in. Come on, be original!
In Soviet Russia, the jokes find regulars funny!

Re:Soviet Russia (0)

kaizokuace (1082079) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068713)

In Soviet Russia "In Soviet Russia" joke YOU!
Also I don't need to fit in. And such jokes become funny again after you've beaten them down enough. It's hard work.

Bargain space flight (3, Interesting)

davmoo (63521) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067599)

Just off the top of my head...

If the shuttle costs $2 billion, and a Soyuz is only $25 million, we could send up 80 Soyuz launches for that same $2 billion.

And if we expand it to cover that there have been 5 shuttles built, that becomes 400 Soyuz flights.

To put that in to perspective, there has only been 119 shuttle launches thus far, and 2 of those $2 billion dollar shuttles came back in little pieces parts. Plus, it doesn't even figure in launch expenses, just the price of the shuttles themselves. Hard to believe that way back when the shuttles were designed, they were expected to each be launched 100 times.

At those rates, it doesn't matter that a Soyuz isn't reusable.

Re:Bargain space flight (5, Insightful)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067639)

I mentioned the same above and have been doing some more digging. This popular mechanics interview with Greg Olsen [popularmechanics.com] was interesting. Here is the part that got it to pop up in my search:

PM: Soyuz costs $50 million a mission--the space shuttle costs more than $2.5 billion to get back up, and under the best conditions it costs $500 million ...
GO: That's tough. Remember, we could not have built the ISS without the shuttle. The shuttle has a huge cargo-carrying capacity. The Soyuz cannot do that, as reliable as it is. The shuttle has had its drawbacks, but it is the workhorse, and it was necessary in order to do the ISS.


They give more about cost - and he gives one view about the shuttle's capacity that adds a different perspective.

Re:Bargain space flight (5, Insightful)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067735)

Of course, that argument requires the assumption that we couldn't possibly make something with similar carrying capacity to the shuttle for cheaper than $500 million to $2.5 billion per launch.

The Saturn V had the ability to lift 118,000 kg to low earth orbit, to the Space Shuttle's 24,400 kg - and that at a similar cost per launch.

The Delta IV can lift up to about the Space Shuttle's capacity at $250 million a launch. The Russian Proton-M can lift a little less than the Shuttle at $100 million a launch. There are plenty of alternatives to the Shuttle for launching large payloads.

Re:Bargain space flight (4, Interesting)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067865)

It would seem a lot of the logic behind the shuttle was to get the gear and the people there on one transport. While I personally think the shuttles design was most about getting the funding not building the most efficient/safe unit.

In any event it seems like the saturn v's could have gotten the IIS up in aprox 4 lifts, this would seem more efficient as there would be less hardware joining sections together.

Re:Bargain space flight (5, Informative)

CharlieG (34950) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068105)

Remember the MAIN design goal of the shuttle wasn't JUST to bring "stuff" to orbit, but to be able to bring sats DOWN from orbit - in fact, part of the design criteria was launch from Vandenburg, grab a sat, and LAND in ONE orbit (Military wanted to be able to snach Sats)

They did bring 2 or 3 Sats down from orbit in the early days

Bringing lots of stuff down intact (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068317)

That's the only big technical thing I see that the shuttle can do that the other alternatives can't.

Grab "big" stuff and bring it down without it burning up.

However, if I made spy sats I'd make sure I could blow them up. It doesn't take very much explosive to make it too dangerous to grab with the shuttle. I bet shuttles are more expensive than spy sats, and it's more expensive to have the spy sat not blow up and be captured ;).

So I suppose it'll only be useful if you were grabbing your own sats, or trying to get a number of people down at once from a space station.

Re:Bringing lots of stuff down intact (2, Interesting)

CharlieG (34950) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068517)

Yep - about it. The thing is, it was one of the BIG selling points, even in the commercial realm. Everyone was going to design their Sats to either be repaired on orbit, or recovered and returned to earth for repair/rebuild. There was even a NASA standard for how the grapple points would work.

  That all went away with Challenger. I can remember watching the couple of sat recovers on TV (Yeah - I'm an older geek - heck, I was writing some code at WORK when I heard Challenger was destroyed). I can remember the classified shuttle launches (everyones guess was one was a KH-7 and the other was a radar sat). I can remember the great talk about Vandenburg being almost ready (all the neat stuff was going to happen there), and about the next gen one piece carbon fibre SRBs. At the company O worked for we had a couple of Ex Perkin Elmer folks (they build the Hubble) and folks who worked for NASA helping build the first batch of shuttles. Heck, I can even remember the first drop test of the Enterprise

Re:Bargain space flight (1)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068125)

In any event it seems like the saturn v's could have gotten the IIS up in aprox 4 lifts

And it put Skylab up in one.

Re:Bargain space flight (2, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068329)

Von Braun's body is a moulderin' in the ground so we aint got Saturn V's no more.

To be quite serious there are a lot of people and infrastructure missing to recreate a Saturn V so it would be better to do something else that it's designers understand in every detail from early in it's development. The Russians have a large rocket in development - there's an ISS so why not international effort on a launch vehicle?

You're missing the fucking point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21067897)

What you and the other fucktards have ignored is volume of the cargo compartment. The lifting capacity for dense objects leaves the shuttle lacking, even when you add in 2 more launches to get the astronauts up there too. (6 v.s. 3, I think, for soyez). However, the cargo compartment on the shuttle is much larger then that of the araine or soviet rockets. If you want a big open space (like, say, an ISS module or spy satellite) in orbit, the shuttle is *the* way to go. How big is the shuttle? Just barely big enough to carry a keyhole satellite. Why don't we trash it? Because we need to be able to replace the satellites when the Chinese decide to start shooting them down.

Re:Bargain space flight (3, Interesting)

seadd (530971) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067839)

That's tough. Remember, we could not have built the ISS without the shuttle. The shuttle has a huge cargo-carrying capacity. The Soyuz cannot do that, as reliable as it is. The shuttle has had its drawbacks, but it is the workhorse, and it was necessary in order to do the ISS.
According to data from Wikipedia: SS payload to LEO: 24400kg Orbiter mass: 68,586.6kg So, to get 24 tons of cargo into orbit, we send nearly 70 tons extra. As a comparison, Russian Proton rocket launches 22 tons into orbit, and uses 40 years old proven design, and was used for launching the parts of the Mir station. So, why exactly do we need Space Shuttle? Do I hear someone mentioning Saturn 5?

Re:Bargain space flight (1)

Nim82 (838705) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067943)

The shuttle wasn't designed for building space stations, it was designed to service satellites (read spy birds) and bring them back down to perform maintenance if necessary (this was later found to be uneconomical and dropped). The Russians built Mir fine without a shuttle, the only real benefit of the shuttle is the additional crew and arm for space walks.. but there's no reason why they couldn't put 2 Soyuz's in orbit if needed (to beef the ISS crew up), or develop a more advanced orbital module for the role of constructor.

Re:Bargain space flight (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068071)

Remember, we could not have built the ISS without the shuttle.
Oh, so we should add another $100 billion to the shuttle's tab? The ISS is not much of a justification for anything.

Re:Bargain space flight (5, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067679)

I dare, nay, double dare you to fit Hubble into a Soyuz capsule:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Space_Shuttle_vs_Soyuz_TM_-_to_scale_drawing.png [wikipedia.org]

The Shuttle is probably a stupid way to put people in orbit, but that isn't all it is used for.

Re:Bargain space flight (3, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067953)

I dare, nay, double dare you to fit Hubble into a Soyuz capsule:

Why would you want to?

Launch cargo(like satellites) on cargo rockets. Life people in capsules designed for people.

As others have pointed out, there are a number of rockets capable of lifting a similar payload as the shuttle - for half the launch cost of the shuttle.

I've seen figures of $500 million for a shuttle launch, $50M for a soyuz(including the capsule), $250 for the Delta IV.

That means we can duplicate the shuttle for about three launches - 2 soyuz(a shuttle can hold more people) $100M total, and a Delta IV for $250M. This totals $350M, leaving me 150M off the launch costs alone to use for other purposes. Like building a space station that's actually useful.

For rather less than the cost of a shuttle, you should be able to design a 'soyuz/apollo heavy' capable of lifting the same number of people as the shuttle.

Re:Bargain space flight (2, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068065)

Why would you want to launch the Hubble from the Shuttle? Use a Titan IV.

Re:Bargain space flight (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067709)

Hard to believe that way back when the shuttles were designed, they were expected to each be launched 100 times.

At that point (1970?) some complacency was setting in, around the generally successful Moon flights. The military also added fuel to the fire by asking for some configurations that are almost impossible. This resulted in a very complex machine, and one flight can bankrupt a medium-sized nation. Nobody knew how much has to be rebuilt after each flight until they got a vehicle back and looked at it.

As an added annoyance, most of the options requested by the military were never used, and options requested by sane people (a launch abort that does not kill everyone, for example) were never implemented.

Today everyone agrees that with technology and science that we have we can not build an economically feasible reusable craft of this size. Smaller ones are possible, and many are on drawing boards. But this space truck, with such an array of engines ... no way. An anti-gravity engine would fix all the troubles; but all the pyrotechnics that the Shuttle has demands respect, and costs a lot.

With regard to launch costs, Wikipedia offers the calculation [wikipedia.org] :

Per-launch costs can be measured by dividing the total cost over the life of the program (including buildings, facilities, training, salaries, etc) by the number of launches. With 115 missions (as of 6 August 2006), and a total cost of $150 billion ($145 billion as of early 2005 + $5 billion for 2005,[7] this gives approximately $1.3 billion per launch. Another method is to calculate the incremental (or marginal) cost differential to add or subtract one flight -- just the immediate resources expended/saved/involved in that one flight. This is about $60 million.

Re:Bargain space flight (3, Interesting)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067795)

The comparison seems a little bit unfair on the Shuttle.

First of all, does the Soyuz figure of 25 mil include the cost of the launch vehicle or just the spacecraft? A search for per launch cost of Soyuz gives me figures from 40-60 mil.

Secondly, Shuttle has a maximum payload of 50,000lb, Soyuz is more in the region of 15,000lb. That gives about $200 mil for 4 Soyuz launches versus $450 mil per one Shuttle launch for equivalent amount of cargo. Of course there is the initial cost of the shuttle as well to take into account but unlike Soyuz that is spread over multiple launches.

Still, he only thing that really matters is the cost per pound of payload and Soyuz still beats Shuttle by a long way.

Re:Bargain space flight (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068085)

Secondly, Shuttle has a maximum payload of 50,000lb, Soyuz is more in the region of 15,000lb.
Lose a zero. Closer to 1,500lb (880kg) for Soyuz. [wikipedia.org] Adjust your calcs accordingly.

Re:Bargain space flight (0)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068561)

I hear the Mexican Space program can get a whale to the moon for $100

Reusable shuttle? Not really .. (4, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067621)

"The Soyuz spacecraft designed in the mid-1960s is still in service, somewhat modified. It can only be used once, but costs just $25 million. The newest Endeavor space shuttle cost $2 billion, but is reusable"

Each shuttle mission costs a half-billion to launch. So many systems have to be rebuilt and retested that it would be cheaper to make them throw-away.

For example, by the time the shuttle engines are on the launch pad, they've been rebuilt pretty much from scratch and retested, which takes up almost 90% of their rated lifetime. Like a race car engine that has to be rebuilt every 750 miles, but is test for 675 miles before the race ...

Saying the shuttle is re-usable without looking at the real costs is ignoring reality.

Re:Reusable shuttle? Not really .. (1)

iluvcapra (782887) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067733)

What I want to know is, how do I get ahold of a used Soyuz capsule? It would make just about the most awesome lawn decoration/flower planter possible ;).

Or even a little piece of it; something big enough and flat enough to turn into a coffee table. I'm not picky.

Reliability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21067769)

"unbearably hot in summer, freezing cold in winter and dusty year round"

I wonder if having to design for these adversities has helped make launch vehicles more reliable ours seem to be. Instead of spending a bunch of bucks for clean rooms we should be designing our stuff to just work!

Re:Reusable shuttle? Not really .. (4, Informative)

glitchvern (468940) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068285)

For example, by the time the shuttle engines are on the launch pad, they've been rebuilt pretty much from scratch and retested, which takes up almost 90% of their rated lifetime.
Is this still true? I know at the beginning of the shuttle program this was true, but that was about 5 major space shuttle main engine versions ago. Phase II engines first flew September 29, 1988 (STS-26 first post Challenger flight); Block 1 engines first flew July 13, 1995 (STS-70); Block IIa engines first flew January 22, 1998 (STS-89); Block II engines, which yes came after Block IIa engines, first flew July 12 2001 (STS-104) Boeing SSME paper [engineeringatboeing.com] . From 1992 to 2000 Space Shuttle annual operating costs decreased 40% Nasa Fact Sheet [nasa.gov] in part due to decreased SSME maintenance costs. How much does it costs to rebuild a Block II SSME? I can't find any numbers for that anywhere. It should be noted that a Block II SSME is the most reliable rocket engine ever built in large part because it's reuseability allows extensive static fire testing of each engine. The space shuttle may be crap, but a lot of the parts are awesome and SSME is one of them. It'll be a shame we will no longer use them when we discontinue the space shuttle, but attaching expensive reusable engines to an expendable booster really doesn't make a lot of sense.

The Space Shuttle is GREAT (5, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067811)

It seems rather fashionable to knock the Space Shuttle - it's expensive, it was overhyped, putting the thing on the side of the tank is a design mistake, and the tiles are a maintenance nightmare. It's easy to knock the Shuttle and demand a retreat to older style systems, and I've done it. But the more and more I think about it, the more I think, junking the shuttle and the approach of the orbital space plane is a huge mistake.

We are all aware of the negatives of the shuttle, but let's look at some of the positives of this system. First and foremost, the interior of the space shuttle is -huge- compared to the interior of a Soyuz, or for that matter, any other manned space craft. The Soyuz can bring up 2 or 3 astronauts, while shuttle missions with 6 or 7 are not uncommon. The Soyuz, the Apollo and the nascent Orion are essentially ballistic nosecones with people stuffed in it. The space shuttle has a habital volume, for its crew compartment alone, of over 70 cubic meters. The soyuz, on the other hand, has a habital volume of just 7 cubic meters. Astronauts in these capsules basically sit in their chairs, but in the shuttle they can get up, move around, and do things. The space shuttle is practically a space station in its own right.

The space shuttle has a cargo bay, and, thanks to the Canadians, has a really cool mechanical arm. The cargo bay can be pressurized for even more space, or it can contain additional research facilities. Have we forgotten that the European Space Agency has flown a science station in the space shuttle cargo bay already? Have we forgotten about the repairs made to Hubble? The Space Shuttle can and has repaired other satellites, and right now, is the ONLY SYSTEM that can bring them back a largish cargo from space to earth.

Everyone seems to like knocking NASA, cheering on the likes of Burt Rutan and the X-Prize in hopes for some private sector miracle, but I've not seen any private sector initiative, from scratch, put so much as a suitcase into orbit, certainly not a man, and nothing like the space shuttle. Those fancy suborbital flights are a joke - 3000mph requires a fraction of the total kinetic energy to attain the orbital velocity of over 17000mph. Let me know when anyone, really, anyone builds something as cool as the shuttle...and the thing is, when we're back to tiny capsules for manned space flight, when the naysayers win and the shuttles are tossed off to museums, everyone is going to compare the capsule to the shuttle and say geez, by far, the shuttle was the cooler thing, and the capsule is a step backwards, not forward, and that our next space ship should have been a newer version of the shuttle, not a rehashed capsule.

Re:The Space Shuttle is GREAT (2, Interesting)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067873)

One of the biggest problems with the Shuttle is that the crew area is on the side of the external fuel tank, and the booster rockets. Yes, capsules on top may be "old hat," but it is a lot safer when you are going up and all of the almost-explosive stuff is under you. That, and there is nothing to fall onto the crew part. Who cares if the insulation on the tank gets damaged if it is below the crew part.

For example, how many missions prior to the Shuttle had problems with insulation falling onto other parts of the rocket?

I am not saying that a capsule instantly makes it safe, but it does alleviate a bunch of concerns NASA has with the Shuttle, especially since the Columbia accident.

Re:The Space Shuttle is GREAT (2, Insightful)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068211)

In fact, the Buran design was superior - it had no lift engines of its own and could ride on top of the real rocket. This simplifies the loads on the main rocket, allow for more cargo and makes the vehicle immune to insulation damage.

Of course the Soviets noticed this was a bad idea (it would be smarter to send the cargo on top of the Energia rocket and not carry Buran's dead weight) and aborted the project after the first flight.

They could have aborted it before, but then there was that national pride thing...

Re:The Space Shuttle is GREAT (1)

RedWizzard (192002) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068493)

Of course the Soviets noticed this was a bad idea (it would be smarter to send the cargo on top of the Energia rocket and not carry Buran's dead weight) and aborted the project after the first flight.

That's a bit revisionist. The design was not in question. The Soviets ran out of money. If they hadn't they would have continued with the program.

Re:The Space Shuttle is GREAT (4, Insightful)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068679)

It's not revisionist to think they probably ran out of money _because_ the Buran solved no real problem that had not already been solved with other technologies. Had the Buran a real task to do, it would probably get some funding.

Since the intention behind it (and other projects as well) was to give technical parity between the two superpowers and the Buran gave nothing new (the USSR could launch people and cargo to space better without it), it got scrapped. They could not afford to let the US develop something significantly better, so they had to do something on the same lines, just to be safe. The main difference is they took less time to figure out it was a really bad idea. And keep in mind theirs was a better one.

The problem is not "build a reusable spacecraft" but rather "get this thing to orbit, for less money than we already pay". If you focus on the wrong problem, it's inevitable you arrive at the wrong solution.

As it happened, Buran was a great solution to get something down in one piece. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen often enough to justify the money spent on it.

Re:The Space Shuttle is GREAT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21067935)

A lot of truth there - reminds me of the Concorde in many respects.

Re:The Space Shuttle is GREAT (3, Interesting)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067993)

It's true the shuttle does things that are really necessary and quite cool - getting people to space and back, getting big things to space and getting other big things back, but the fact that those abilities are seldom needed at once is a killer.

There must be a way to ferry big stuff into orbit frequently - even if it is just a truckload of provisions for the ISS or a whole vehicle capable of taking a crew to the Moon and back. There must be a way to send people to the ISS and back. There must be a way to allow those people already in space to repair expensive stuff like the Hubble. Finally, there should probably be a way to return things the size of the Hubble back to Earth in one piece.

Sending large things to orbit is very frequent, ferrying people is less frequent and bringing back stuff is even less frequent if needed at all.

Having something that does all three at the same time seems like a bad idea.

Re:The Space Shuttle is GREAT (4, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067999)

Great, it's a reusable space station. The point that I'd make is that it shouldn't be. For the cost of what we do with it, we could have an even larger permanent space station, just use smaller capsules(and large cargo rockets) to get there.

Design a space station that only has to survive being lifted once, and doesn't have to come down intact. Heck, make it modular - remove pieces as they wear out and let them drop back if you want to.

For satellite repair design a space tug that can go out with some astronauts and the robotic arm to conduct repairs on satellites. It should be almost an order of magnitude lighter than the shuttle, so it shouldn't take much fuel. For longer repairs, consider hauling the satellite back to the station. Heck, have a bigalow structure you can haul larger cargo into and pressurize if you want.

Re:The Space Shuttle is GREAT (4, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068053)

The reason the Shuttle is a bad idea and remains so, is that it isn't economical to use. Many of those capabilities are unnecessary and add little value to the Shuttle. That's why it's only being used for launching ISS components and a Hubble repair mission. If the ISS were complete, the Shuttle would already be dead, and we'd be saving ourselves $2 billion or more a year.

Everyone seems to like knocking NASA, cheering on the likes of Burt Rutan and the X-Prize in hopes for some private sector miracle, but I've not seen any private sector initiative, from scratch, put so much as a suitcase into orbit, certainly not a man, and nothing like the space shuttle. Those fancy suborbital flights are a joke - 3000mph requires a fraction of the total kinetic energy to attain the orbital velocity of over 17000mph. Let me know when anyone, really, anyone builds something as cool as the shuttle...and the thing is, when we're back to tiny capsules for manned space flight, when the naysayers win and the shuttles are tossed off to museums, everyone is going to compare the capsule to the shuttle and say geez, by far, the shuttle was the cooler thing, and the capsule is a step backwards, not forward, and that our next space ship should have been a newer version of the shuttle, not a rehashed capsule.

Orbital Sciences and the Pegasus did just that in the late 80's. NASA started feeding them contracts so they wouldn't compete with the big players. Second, those fancy suborbital flights are closer to orbit than you think. They have higher delta-v's due to gravitational and air resistance losses (I'd say it turns a factor of five into a factor of 2-4). Also you can stage lifters. My take is that a three stage rocket will get you there. And we all know there are two stage to orbit launchers out there. No reason a private company can't repeat with its own funds what a private company did with government funds.

Ultimately, economics is far more important than "coolness". The Shuttle never was economical. Too bad it took us around thirty years to figure that out.

Re:The Space Shuttle is GREAT (0, Offtopic)

JK_the_Slacker (1175625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068421)

That's nothing. It took us over 200 years to figure out the government isn't economical.

Re:The Space Shuttle is GREAT (1)

caffeine_high (974351) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068153)

and it has wings. :-)

Re:The Space Shuttle is GREAT (5, Insightful)

confused one (671304) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068179)

I don't knock the shuttle generally. It's a fantastic machine. Everything you say about it is true. BTW, that includes the negatives about the tiles and mounting the thing on the side of a tank that you can't escape from. The problem is that it's such a marvelously complicated machine, that it's MTBF is unacceptably low. It's OVERcomplicated, being a system full of compromises designed in by multiple committees with differing goals. Don't misunderstand me, I love the things. BTW, FWIW I work for a NASA contractor adjacent to the Langley facility. It bothers me that about 1 in 100 have not returned in one piece. As an engineer, it also bothers me that the system is running wayyyy beyond it's design life.

The Soyuz system is remarkable in that it's been reliable. They're not perfect. Yes, they had fatal accidents, however, the last one occured in 1971. They learned from those failures and implemented design changes in the later modules. Yes, it's also true that Soyuz has only flown around 100 manned flights; but, even when it fails, as the NAV system did today, the people return alive. That's a reputation that's hard to argue with.

I think what we've learned from operating the shuttle and looking at the Russian program, is that simple makes for a better MTBF and does it at a lower cost. It may not be gee-wiz. It may appear to be a step backward. If this means the people come home alive, it's the right move. Use the big boosters, in parallel, to put the equipment in space and then have the people meet it there.

It's like we tried to run, when we didn't know how to walk yet. We stumbled a few times, scrapped our knees. Now we're being a little more cautious as we learn to walk with confidence. We'll run again, when the times right, that is, when the technology catches up and the infrastructure is in place.

A car analogy to put things into perspective (1)

monkeySauce (562927) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068281)

So basically what you are saying is that the Russians have the Soyuz, which is inexpensive but small-- kind of like sending a Mini Cooper into space. But we could never stand for that in America, so we have the Shuttle, which is more like a launching tractor-trailer into orbit. Right?

Re:The Space Shuttle is GREAT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21068673)

"First and foremost, the interior of the space shuttle is -huge- compared to the interior of a Soyuz, or for that matter, any other manned space craft. "

That's exactly what we're complaining about, and the reason it's such a stupid design. It's large. It DOESN'T need to be. So most of the time you are carting useless weight around, except for the few times you have a Hubble to carry.

And the Soyuz rockets can easily carry something big if they have to. They just make a biger nose cone for it. The size issues that are being made in this argument are irrelevant. What happened is that we believed in Hollywood, and made a Space Truck for a job which would have been better done by a Space Motorcycle!

Command Economy (1)

kencf0618 (1172441) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067817)

I'm appalled and impressed: I've always liked the design philosophy of the Soviet-cum-Russian space program. Keeps a licking and keeps on ticking!

Bruce Sterling noted on Nightline some years ago that NASA was a command economy. Overall the Russian space program seems to have adapted better. Oh, the irony.

Next up: China.

     

Re:Command Economy (1)

Robonaut (1134343) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068107)

It seems that everyone forgets that the Russians had their own (almost identical) version of the Space Shuttle called Buran. The Soviets/Russians had completed or were finishing construction of 5 space capable vehicles. 1 of which actually flew into space and a second that was being readied for launch before the plug was pulled. In the end, NASA has gotten well over 100 manned flights from its program, the Soviets/Russians only got 1 unmanned. I am not suggesting that NASA is perfect, but its Russian counterpart is not either.

Re:Command Economy (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068385)

NASA has gotten well over 100 manned flights from its program, the Soviets/Russians only got 1 unmanned

Patriotism is a virtue but shifting into a small subcatagory that the others didn't even have a real start in just to win is a bit much. Isn't first man on the moon enough?

Re:Command Economy (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068495)

But that's the point, they axed the Buran because they realized it was not cost-effective. Just as NASA should have axed the Shuttle.

cost effectiveness (1)

WinchesterPC.Com (1131199) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067833)

So, the Endeavor pays for itself after...80 flights?

Re:cost effectiveness (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 6 years ago | (#21067937)

Nope, shuttles must be overhauled after each flight.

tro7l (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21068013)

and shouting thAt

Baikonur - Kazakhstan vs. Russia (2, Informative)

ChemE (1070458) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068045)

One thing not mentioned in the article (but is mentioned in the 2005 article) is the problems between the Kazakh and Russian governments.They are still debating over problems (especially money) due to failed rocket launches, most recently in September. The Kazakh government keeps suspending and then unsuspending Russian operations at the base.

See this article from EurasiaNet: http://eurasianet.org/resource/kazakhstan/hypermail/news/0011.shtml [eurasianet.org]

Q. How much does it cost to launch a Space Shuttle (2, Insightful)

guacamole (24270) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068657)

(NASA's) Answer. The average cost to launch a Space Shuttle is about $450 million per mission.

In other words, the whole shuttle program had been a big waste of money that set the American space exploration back by several decades. The whole thing should have been canned after the Challenger disaster. At that point it was already so damn obvious that the program failed MOST of its original goals. This situation is so bad that Russians can indeed successfully compete with us even though they're using decades old technology and at a fraction of our costs.

Sounds strangely familiar... (1)

StinkFloyd (997512) | more than 6 years ago | (#21068667)

Life and work in Baikonur and its cosmodrome are also pretty much what they were in the Soviet era. The town of 70,000 - unbearably hot in summer, freezing cold in winter and dusty year round - is isolated by hundreds of miles of scrubland.
This statement is equally true if you replace "Baikonur and its cosmodrome" with "Saskatoon."
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