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European Space Agency Launches New Orbital Supply Ship

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the neither-rain-nor-sleet-nor-gloomy-vacuum dept.

Space 129

erik.martino brings us a story about the European Space Agency's successful launch of a new type of cargo ship to resupply the ISS. The first Automated Transport Vehicle (ATV), named after Jules Verne, is the "very first spacecraft in the world designed to conduct automated docking in full compliance with the very tight safety constraints imposed by human spaceflight operations." Among other things, it carries water, oxygen, and propellant to help boost the ISS to a higher orbit. We recently discussed NASA's need for a new cargo transport system. Quoting: "Beyond Jules Verne, ESA has already contracted industry to produce four more ATVs to be flown through to 2015. With both ESA's ATV and Russia's Progress, the ISS will be able to rely on two independent servicing systems to ensure its operations after the retirement of the US space shuttle in 2010. It incorporates a 45-m3 pressurised module, derived from the Columbus pressure shell, and a Russian-built docking system, similar to those used on Soyuz manned ferries and on the Progress re-supply ship. About three times larger than its Russian counterpart, it can also deliver about three times more cargo."

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129 comments

Automated? (3, Insightful)

Jerry Smith (806480) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692088)

Fully automated docking... hmm.. somehow I think the results of the autonomous docking will be significant for other fields. Imagine fully automated units on Mars, to be sent in advance? Fully automated mining on the moon?
I think this is a pretty big step forward.

Why do you think that? (5, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692176)

The automated docking is Russian. They have been using it since the 60's. I wish America had elected to do this, but we did not. Our approach will be to bring crafts up close, then allow an arm to hook up and pull the craft in.

Re:Why do you think that? (1)

icepick72 (834363) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692274)

"an arm to hook up and pull the craft in" ... Does America get all its ideas from cartoon factories featuring funny robotic assembly lines?

Re:Why do you think that? (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692948)

Does America get all its ideas from cartoon factories featuring funny robotic assembly lines?

No, we also draw strategic foreign policy ideas from the "Kill da wabbit!" cartoon.

Re:Why do you think that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22694040)

Be vewwwyyy quiet....

we're hunting tewwowists.

Grapple arm? (3, Informative)

amightywind (691887) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692296)

You don't know what you are talking about. A grapple arm has never been used to dock a craft to ISS and never will. You may complain that the shuttle uses a human in the loop to dock with the ISS. I think the caution is warranted considering the orbiter weighs 285000 lbs and carries 7 crew. Orion will have a standard docking adapter and can fly unmanned. So will SpaceX and Taurus II.

Re:Grapple arm? (3, Informative)

pe1rxq (141710) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692548)

I think you might need to read up on the SpaceX Dragon capsule....
It won't be able to dock without help from the station's arm.

Re:Grapple arm? (1)

Keebler71 (520908) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693228)

The COTS participants, SpaceX and until recently RpK were going to perform autonomous rendezvous, stop short of docking and then would be berthed by the station's arm.

Shocked that you got modded up (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22696098)

The shuttle does fly in on manual. But ALL of the new crafts will be using canada arm (which is the reason why I said Our approach will be to bring crafts up close,). Dragon, Japan's cargo, Orbital's newest one, and several others who are shooting for cargo missions in the future will ALL use the same approach. The idea is to pull along the ISS, and then the ISS will run the arm to snag the craft and then move it to its port. This is well documented all over the place. You can google for it. You can wiki for it. Hell, I think even MSN will carry something about it. How did you get modded up when it is VERY obvious that you have no clue of what YOU are talking about. You absolutely should be modded down just to prevent ppl from getting bad info from you.

Re:Grapple arm? (1)

Criton (605617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22697380)

Orion might not be able to but it's not big loss as it will not have much cargo capacity anyway and would be way too expensive to use in this manner even the ESA ATV would be far less costly but the spacex dragon sure will be able to perform automated docking but in automated mode they choose to use the station RMS so they can use the CBM to transfer large cargo that can't fit though the docking ports just like the Japanese H2 vehicle.. The Taurus II Cygnus vehicle also will be able to but it's launch vehicle doesn't exist yet though I think Griffin screwed up again can this guy get anything right as the SS/L 1300 series bus based tug or the spacedev arctus would have been a far lower risk choice. As you can see in the web sites both these craft are vastly superior to cygnus which I believe is much too small to be useful also it's LV uses an engine not currently in production the NK-33 not to mention the launch vehicle the Taurus II is presently vapor ware vs being existing hardware like the EELVs SS/L and spacehab use or presently being constructed like spacex's falcon 9. http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1024/1 [thespacereview.com] http://www.arctus-spacecraft.com/ [arctus-spacecraft.com]

Re:Why do you think that? (2, Informative)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692316)

Yes, but it took them quite a while to get it right, and Russian spacecraft throughout the 60s and 70s were plagued with docking failures.

These days, they've gotten it to the point where it works quite well, although this certainly wasn't always the case.

Re:Why do you think that? (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694246)

Remember when they crashed a cargo ship into the side of Mir?

That ship wasn't carrying the automatic docking system; they'd left it off to save money, and had asked one of the cosmonauts on board to steer it in manually.

So, for the record: Russian automatic docking systems were already better than human cosmonauts ten years ago.

Re:Why do you think that? (1)

cmat (152027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22695654)

Hmm, I don't think so. Certainly, since the Russians we're not able to get the same amount of practice (due to the automated docking system) they were possibly less proficient at docking than their American counterparts. That particular case you mention though is quite different from a normal docking operation by the shuttle. The "pilot" in the case of the Mir collision was on the station and not in the Progress craft, and was attempting to dock the craft using a system that had flaws in it.

Re:Why do you think that? (5, Informative)

Cochonou (576531) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692708)

There is a significant difference between the respective docking systems of the Progress docks and the ATV.
The Progress uses a multi-antenna radar system named KURS [wikipedia.org].
The ATV uses a specifically made video meter [sodern.fr] (PDF).

Thanx (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694370)

For some odd reason, I was thinking that they were the same,but at the same time, I knew that they were based on different tech. Guess I was not thinking.

Re:Why do you think that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22692880)

Don't worry, if the Ramsey arm fails we can always use the Russel arm to complete the mission.

An if the Russel arm fails, we have the SC2000.

Re:Why do you think that? (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693374)

Is there any actual disadvantage to making use of the arm on the space station? I suspect that it isn't too much harder to do it without the arm, but it should make the safety approval process much easier/cheaper.

In fact, (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22696142)

that is why they are going to use the arm. It is easy to guarantee that the craft does not cause an issue via some failure. But I still like the automated approach. It has the advantage that automated systems can be join together easier. In the end, it would be nice to see ESA's system adopted for more automated systems.

Re:Automated? (5, Funny)

smallfries (601545) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692414)

Nah, the docking computer is for girls. It takes up a ton of space that is essential for loading up with consumer goods for the Sol to Barnard's Star cargo run. Definitely not worth it until you get a much bigger ship...

Re:Automated? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22696166)

You can skip docking completely if you approach your target on autopilot at very high velocities on very high time compression.

Re:Automated? (4, Insightful)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692506)

Really there's very little relation between automated docking and automated mining of the moon. My telling machine is also automated, but that's not a step towards mining space rocks.

See? (2, Insightful)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692096)

See what you can achieve if you don't go around wasting your budget on invasions to satisfy someones cracked idea of a new American century?

Re:See? (3, Insightful)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692146)

Honestly? Every post, slashdot?

I don't like the war either. I think its a huge waste of money and an important issue. But this post is about the new orbital supply ship from Europe. The only thing this post has to do with the war is, and even the user agrees, the fact it says "European" and not "American". If that. I too wish we could divert all funds from our bloated and un-needed war machine and redirect it to space exploration so we can get off this rock and try out again somewhere else...especially given the fact one day this rock won't support us. But I don't think that day is soon and I don't think this news post is about redirecting funds from the space program (or anywhere else) into the war. In fact, I know its not. Its about the space shuttle program in Europe!

Either way, the above post is just a troll (albeit one I personally agree with)...and here I am feeding him. But I can't help it this time.

"Japan IDs its citizens"
If Japan didn't sent troops to Iraq the terrorists wouldn't be a threat to them. Lord knows why they went.

"Verizon: Fiber or Die?"
If the US government would put 1 week of the money we spend in Iraq on laying fiber lines across the country this wouldn't be an issue.

"Lessig on Corruption and Reform"
Ok, this one is a given.

"Olympic Website features Pirated Content"
And if we never went to Iraq we could focus on supporting industry in the states and then China's higher economy could allow for a better web-design.

"Wikileaks Calls for Global Boycott..."
See, if we never went to Iraq, domains would be free and this wouldn't be a problem.

Re:See? (1)

VanessaE (970834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22696928)

I don't know how I feel one way or another about all those other articles, but an argument can be made for the GP that, war-related or not, American-related or not, this project shows what can be done if you don't waste precious tax dollars on bullshit such as war or what have you, regardless of what country is involved.

Re:See? (-1, Redundant)

pease1 (134187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692182)

See what you can achieve if you don't go around wasting your budget on invasions to satisfy someones cracked idea of a new American century?

You actually think the Dems would have not spent the money to further make their supporters dependent on government services in order to ensure their personal power and status? Unless a political need need for space travel comes along, it will always play 3rd, 4th, 5th fiddle to defense, war on poverty, "universal" (communist) health care, transportation, etc. ISS only flew as a contractor support program.

Re:See? (0, Offtopic)

PenguSven (988769) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692212)

did you just associate the ability for anyone to get medical treatment when they're sick with communism?

Re:See? (0, Offtopic)

ghoul (157158) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692456)

I guess the GP is a closet communist and associates anything good like Universal Health Care with Communism. Actually democracies like Great Britain and the Scandinavian countries do a pretty good job of Universal Health Care but that could be due to cultural issues. But then again the US is more of a Republic than a Democracy - e.g. Everyone's vote does not count the same in the US due to the electoral college system and Americans living in offshore territories(like Guam) do not get the vote unlike French living in say French Guyana. So people in the US dont really have that communal feeling created by true Democracy as those in Scandinavia so a Republican mindset is more prevalent than a Democratic one. (Please note here I am using the words Republican and Democratic in their original sense and not to refer to the major political parties of the US) And Republics are always more elitist than democracies ; and may the barbarians take the hindmost (or the one without health insurance)

Re:See? (0, Flamebait)

pease1 (134187) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693360)

Mmmmm... A State controlled "free" health care system based on State mandated theft of wealth from others, called by some universal heath care. Yeah, I'll consider that a form of communism, you can call it anything you want. Still waiting for someone to name of the article in the Bill of Rights that promises free health care.

Re:See? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22694076)

Still waiting for someone to name of the article in the Bill of Rights that promises free health care.
Well don't hold your breath... but if you're serious about trying to find a constitution justification for universal healthcare -- First, skip back a couple of pages to the preamble and note the intention to "promote the general Welfare." Can be interpreted pretty damn broadly. As a footnote, check out the ninth amendment, which says the "People don't have a right to such-and-such because it isn't listed in the bill of rights" line is BS.

Re:See? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22695512)

So you say Universal Healthcare would be the theft of people with money simply to pay for those who are too stupid to make a fortune for themselves I guess. Forget the sick people who cannot afford healthcare or the mothers with 4 children and a dead husband just as random examples. The government spends the tax money that you say they so call rob off rich people on much worse things as can easily be seen by the wars and pork barrel politics as well. Or we could move on to say the reason no one in the United States can actually afford to pay the 200 to 400 dollars per trip it costs to go to the doctor or the 100,000 dollars it costs to have a surgery is simply because half the people cannot get a job with healthcare or that pays worth a shit. Reason why is because all the factories etc. move overseas because healthcare and wage costs make then unable to compete with people who work for way less. Mainly the reason is healthcare costs for mass amounts of employees. If employers had to pay less healthcare costs then they could afford to pay their employess more. I am on state insurace because I have severe bipolar disorder and anxiety for around the last year. I worked the last 10 years on my life no problem 6 of that in the U.S. Army but now have a hard time even getting out of bed. One trip to the doctor yesterday would have cost me almost a 1000 dollars counting the EKG, blood tests, visit fees and prescription costs. I had a ambulance ride for 3 miles and a 12 hour stay in the hospital and the insurace sent me a letter showing the cost of 1400 dollars for my 3 mile ambulance ride in which I got an I.V. and used a pink puke bucket. Quite a overpriced taxi ride if you ask me. Also educate yourself on universal healthcare. Most of the proposals are to create a system to where individuals apply for insurance and the government pools together mass amounts of people with the same healthcare needs into a large group. Then they receive insurance at a discounted rates the same as large buisnesses do instead of paying high indivudual costs. This would drive down costs of healthcare because doctors would be receiving adequate compensation from each visitor to the office instead of having to make do with what they can get off state ran insurance companies. By the way your a frigging moron.

Re:See? (-1, Flamebait)

ghoul (157158) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692540)

You may not like the war but every cent the US spends on the Iraq war is worth it. The world simply has to know that the US will back up its talk with the required walk. Think about it. The US hardly produces anything nowadays except software, movies, weapons and food. It imports everything else and runs a huge deficit. Now there are two issues to look at. Firstly people all over the world buy US movies because the US is considered the king of the world and everyone wants to be like the king . No world domination ergo no Hollywood domination of the World mind space. Next the software - the US is at the front of the technical race mostly because of the huge amount poured into all kinds of esoteric research and hence no world domination no money for research and noone will buy US software in 10 years. Next weapons . Well unless you have regular wars where you can demonstrate the effectiveness of your weapons why would some other country buy them. So without world domination all the US would end up exporting is Wheat and Soya but that cant afford a 1st world lifestyle. Next lets look at how the US pays for all these weapons and foreign wars. The US runs a huge trade and revenue deficit. How does it close the deficit it just prints more money. Now why doesnt every other government in the world do just that? Well because if they did that they would have runaway inflation and collapse like Weimar Germany. But the US is a special case as the US currency is also the world reserve currency as international trade and especially the oil trade is carried out in dollars. So as soon as the US govt prints more dollars they are sucked out by the Chinese, Japanese and other Central Banks for their reserves hence preventing runaway inflation while giving the US govt a blank cheque to spend as much as it wants on its military and social programs like Welfare and Social Security. Now you must be thinking are the rst of the countries in the world nuts to allow such a meal ticket to the US. No they are not and they resent it like hell but they have no choice. This dollar system of international trade was set up at the end of WW2 when except for the US and the USSR all major economies were in ruin so the only choice was to accept the Dollar or Rouble as the reserve currency. The West (but including US allies in very eastern places like Australia) chose the dollar and the Warsaw pact countries chose the ruble and hence the world was divided into two zones and the cold war reigned (Funny how Communist China and Yugoslavia were considered on the US side as they traded in dollars and not rubles). Now it has been more than 60 years since WW2 and most western economies have rebuilt so you may ask why does Europe still give the US a free ride? Because its not a free ride because in exchange for this economic dominance the US has to act as the Global cop and use the military paid for via the Dollar subsidy to keep the peace. Ergo if the US had not gone to Iraq sooner or later international trade including the oil trade would have shifted away from Dollars. In that scenario everyone would dump dollars and the US govt could no longer carry a deficit without huge inflation and that means no more money for the huge US military machine. Think thats an unlikely scenario? Its exactly what happened to Great Britain. Till the World Wars Great Britain had the largest fleet in the world and arguably the largest army. It was all paid by deficit funding and the deficit funding could be done because the Pound Sterling was the currency of foreign trade. BTW dont fret about the trade deficit with China. You always carry a trade deficit with your colonies. The UK always carried a trade deficit with India and other colonies. All it meant was the Indians would ship real goods to the UK and in return get back Pound Sterlings which were just pieces of paper and the only thing to do with them was invest them back in the London Stock market. Reminds you of US and China doesnt it? In all the US has a pretty cushy ride right now and it is their just rewards for winning WW2 and for acting as the Global Cop but if the US stopped acting tough pretty soon the US would be in the same state as UK where people wait for upto 6 years to get a council flat so they can stop living 6 people to a tiny studio. To maintain the US standard of living a few thousand lives in Iraq is a small price to pay and the money is literaly a drop in the ocean.

Re:See? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22692678)

So, basically, what you're saying is that Americans are a load of murderous bastards who will do anything to remain the most powerful nation in the world, and will pre-emptively invade and slaughter anyone who looks like stepping out of line?

So my first thoughts about the Iraq war were right, after all?

Re:See? (1)

PenguSven (988769) | more than 6 years ago | (#22696466)

the US is considered the king of the world and everyone wants to be like the king
are you fucking shitting me? i don't know a single person who thinks the US is great in ANY WAY. if i was living in a country and it made changes to be like the US, i'd be down to those two old choices: leave, or shoot myself in the head. the US is a fucking joke. you're taken into an illegal war, by a man who is illegally in the white house, and is lucky to spell his own fucking name. you're just like the school yard bully. no body things you're cool, they just go along with you because they're scared your crazy ass el-presidente will have a though, mid-taco that he should invade country X. when you actually do something positive for the world.. i dunno.. support peaceful resolution over war... acknowledge climate change and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, accept that US ENGLISH is fucking stupid and that there is ONE ENGLISH LANGUAGE... realise that you are one of only THREE COUNTRIES that don't accept the metric system... maybe when you sort all of them issues out, we'll let you come play in the sand=pit.

The real test (3, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692190)

is yet to come. This ship has to hook up without causing damage. One of the differences from the progress is that those in space can take control iff they do not like what they see. OTH, the ATV will simply back-off if IT decides that IT is not correct. I would prefer it it left itself available to manually doc with an arm once the auto doc failed.

Re:The real test (1)

johannesg (664142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693442)

That's not true. The astronauts tell ATV to come closer, hold position, or back away. They can also ask for a Collision Avoidance Maneuvre, but if it comes to that, it would be better not to be on the space station to begin with...

But apart from those four basic functions, ATV does the rest of the docking by itself.

Not trivial (3, Informative)

sammyo (166904) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692196)

This should be making big news, but I expect they are keeping it low key. The Mir was almost destroyed http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1087974.stm [bbc.co.uk] during an automated docking trial.

Re:Not trivial (4, Insightful)

backwardMechanic (959818) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692320)

Isn't the key word there 'trial'? According to the fine article, it happened back in '97, i.e. a decade ago. The article is interesting. It leaves me really impressed that Mir had all those troubles, but survived in orbit without killing anyone. This is meant to be cutting edge science and engineering. Things will go wrong. Yes, Mir wore out in the end, but after years of fine service.

Re:Not trivial (1)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692560)

actually Mir never wore out, it had a few broken bits, but it could have kept on going just fine. The only reason it was destroyed was because it was replaced by the ISS, Russia agreed to ditch Mir to focus on the ISS.

Re:Not trivial (2, Insightful)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693148)

actually Mir never wore out, it had a few broken bits, but it could have kept on going just fine. The only reason it was destroyed was because it was replaced by the ISS, Russia agreed to ditch Mir to focus on the ISS.
The trouble with Mir was that it was a serious accident waiting to happen. Mir was built on the classic Soviet engineering model of "expediency rather than telling your boss it can't be done without (X) and getting sent to the gulag*".

* OK, engineers weren't sent to the gulag for that, but it was not unheard of to suddenly be reassigned as Third Assistant Headlight Bezel Engineer at the GAZ Truck Factory for "not being a team player".

Re:Not trivial (2, Insightful)

emilper (826945) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694908)

If my (slightly unhappy) experience with former SU consumer goods is any help, the SU products were overengineered for robustness while consuming a lot of electricity and looking kind of ugly. Could you give me some reference to stories of SU engineers sent to unpleasant jobs because they said "it can't be done on these therms" ?

Re:Not trivial (2, Insightful)

Anspen (673098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22696140)

Strangly this didn't stop the Mir from beging the record holder for space station duration.

Re:Not trivial (5, Interesting)

JohnyDog (129809) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692618)

You do realize that crash happened during manual docking trial ? i.e. that Progress dockings were always automatic, but they wanted to train emergency manual docking procedure and failure was indeed human factor ? (Murphy's laws in action i'd say).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuttle-Mir_Program#Priroda.2C_fire_and_collision_.281996.E2.80.931997.29 [wikipedia.org]

Foale's Increment proceeded fairly normally until June 25, when during the second test of the Progress manual docking system, TORU, the resupply ship collided with solar arrays on the Spektr module and crashed into the module's outer shell, holing the module and causing a depressurisation of the station, the first ever on-orbit depressurisation in the history of spaceflight. Only quick actions on the part of the crew, cutting cables leading to the module and closing Spektr's hatch, prevented the crew abandoning the station in their Soyuz lifeboat.

Re:Not trivial (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22695724)

they wanted to train emergency manual docking procedure

Basically, just like in Chernobyl... they played what-ifs on real stuff.

What can we conclude from these two examples? NEVER train emergency procedures on deployed, live systems! Design and build good, adequate simulators and train on them first. If you cannot completely simulate systems you designed, you have too little knowledge to be designing that systems in first place, so just DON'T. I guess that is the root of all great failures of Soviet technology - too little knowledge, or even an adequate knowledge on original designers part, but hostile attitude toward passing own knowledge to others who need it (in order to remain indispensable).

To generalize some more and include Apollo project in another, more broadly generalized conclusion, large projects should follow a strict procedure: Design and deploy knowledge-gathering organization FIRST, make sure nothing is truck-prone (no matter how many persons on the project is ran over by a truck, project will not be set back) and don't make a single step forward towards project goal before the knowledge management works flawlessly.

Non-reusable vehicles (4, Insightful)

l2718 (514756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692216)

Isn't it sad that 50 years into the space program our resupply plan for the ISS is based on single-use ships?

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (2, Insightful)

amightywind (691887) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692278)

Perhaps is says something about the ultimate utility of single use ships as opposed to reusable.

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (4, Insightful)

ghoul (157158) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692402)

Sometimes single use just makes sense. The dockyards and land ports of the world are full of containers which were used one wy and abandoned as it does not make sense to ship them back empty and this is on earth, the costs for space travel are an order of magnitude higher. For manned vessels we should be trying for reusable vehicles but for Cargo? I think not.

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692486)

And the fact that the Russians with their low tech systems can do it far more reliably than the United states and our "superior" technology and space program.

The russian space program has been way ahead of us in orbital operations for decades. That stupid shuttle set up back 20 years.

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (0)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694070)

And the fact that the Russians with their low tech systems can do it far more reliably than the United states and our "superior" technology and space program.

That's what many people believe. In reality, no rocket has really flown enough to build a valid experience base - and within the limits of currently available data the difference in reliability and safety between the US and Russia is essentially statistically insensible. (IIRC somewhere around 98.3% of the US and 98.5% for the Russians.)

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (3, Insightful)

quanticle (843097) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694860)

Right, but the Russians are paying significantly less, both in upfront and per-mission costs for their Soyuz and Progress launches than we are for our shuttle launches. Essentially we're getting the same reliability as the Russians, but paying a lot more for it.

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (3, Interesting)

Daneboy (315359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692578)

Yes, it's tragicomically wasteful. I don't understand why they can't design a cargo/supply ship that STAYS IN ORBIT. I mean, sure, let's go ahead and de-orbit the ISS trash in some kind of disposable carrying module -- but leave the ship itself in orbit, and design it so it can potentially be refueled from the station later. Then just "park" it in orbit a few miles from the Station, and leave it there. At some point in time, we could probably think of something useful to do in space with a handful of these -- and we would finally have the "pickup truck in space" that NASA wanted a few years ago. The whole concept of multi-million-dollar disposable rockets is just ludicrous!

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (1)

jschen (1249578) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692920)

I don't understand why they can't design a cargo/supply ship that STAYS IN ORBIT.
That could be interesting. After all, they could always be deorbited later if they're not of use. We probably shouldn't keep all of them around... that's way too much space junk near the station. But having a few around (probably the most recent few) might eventually prove useful.

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (5, Insightful)

demachina (71715) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693124)

You can't just "park" a ship a few miles from the ISS. The ISS orbit is constantly decaying and being boosted. You would have to exactly match its orbit to the ISS to keep anything "parked" anywhere near it. If its not doing anything useful there is no point burning the propellant.

You could maybe make a case for attaching all these ships to the ISS and growing its storage, lab or habitation space, but there are no docking ports designed for this, they would grow the mass of the ISS requiring more propellant to maintain orbit. They would also just complicate power, pressurization, etc so if they aren't doing anything useful they probably aren't really worth it. To make them useful on orbit would substantially increase the expense to build them and reduce their cargo capacity.

Otherwise this is awesome news and cheers for ESA. It is about time the NASA/Russia stanglehold on the ISS was broken. NASA and the U.S. in particular just haven't been sane managers of the ISS or just about anything else about the manned space program since Apollo ended. Its especially sad all the money that is being poured in to the cosmic ray detector that would actually do valuable research on ISS for a change, but NASA probably wont launch it.

It remains to be seen if ESA and Japan can make the ISS useful and worth the expense but they sure can't do any worse than NASA in this regard.

Negative on NASA (1)

amightywind (691887) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694466)

You most definitely can park a spacecraft in the same orbit as ISS. Where did you learn your orbotal mechanics, on a CrackerJack box? That craft and ISS will undergo similar nongravitational forces. Some station keeping is always necessary. This is what the ATV will be doing for the next month.

NASA was sane enough to allow Russia and Europe to participate. NASA was also sane enough to launch over 90% of the station mass. Part of the cost overrun problem was coordinating so many more participants than were originally planned. As for the cosmic ray detector - don't you think that is a mission that might best be accomplished unmanned?

Re:Negative on NASA (1)

pe1rxq (141710) | more than 6 years ago | (#22695356)

I think you have no idea how much 'station keeping' the ISS is doing...
Its orbit needs very regular boosts. Any discarded spacecraft would need to be capable to boost itself the same amount to stay in the same orbit as ISS.
In other words you would need to launch these crafts with a shitload of fuel just to keep them up. And only because some random slashdot reader thought it might be a good idea to keep old junk up there...

It is simply cheaper to launch without all that extra fuel and let it burn once it is not needed anymore.

Re:Negative on NASA (1)

Criton (605617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22697330)

Seems you are wrong on a lot of counts ISS only needs to occasionally reboost also said tug can just remain docked to the station while it waits for a cargo/fuel container to be launched. One of the COTS competitors SS/L had a tug based on the 1300 series satellite bus this tug would have had a service life of 15 years. Though nasa in their presently misguided management choose a vastly inferior vehicle by Orbital which is to launch on a rocket that does not even exist yet which I believe was a very bad choice vs this flexible tug.

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (2, Informative)

Sigurd_Fafnersbane (674740) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693126)

The ISS is in low-earth orbit. So low that it requires propulsion to stay in orbit due to atmospheric drag. If you put more stuff up there you need more fuel to keep this in orbit so it is not for free to "park it close by". It is not going to stay there unless it is receiving a frequent boost from the friendly ATV, Progress or Shuttle.

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 6 years ago | (#22695754)

Sort of. Yes, it does need occasional boosts of energy to push it to a higher orbit due to atmospheric drag, but extra mass (particularly compact mass) would mean that it could plow through that atmosphere longer, so it wouldn't require the boosts so often.

The ISS is hardly aerodynamic in terms of its profile.

The real question in term of the ISS is what to do with the thing once it starts to outlive its useful life, due to general aging of the systems. It is designed to be refurbished in orbit, but at what cost? Even shutting down the ISS is going to be expensive, and there are multiple options for shutting it down such as moving it to a much higher orbit (like a Lunar Lagrangian point), or "deorbiting" the whole thing in pieces. Any option that deals with the ISS on a permanent basis is likely to cause some huge logistical problems. You certainly don't want the whole thing crashing on your house in once piece.

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (5, Insightful)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693368)

Yes, it's tragicomically wasteful. I don't understand why they can't design a cargo/supply ship that STAYS IN ORBIT. I mean, sure, let's go ahead and de-orbit the ISS trash in some kind of disposable carrying module
They could, but in doing so they'd have to redesign it from its current philosophy of disposable carrying module to that of reusable spacecraft. Then they'd have to design a new disposable carrying module to hold all the garbage, which people like you would again decry as "wasteful" and demand it be refueled and parked up on blocks in the ISS front yard "jest in case we needs a 'nuther pickup truck someday".

The whole concept of multi-million-dollar disposable rockets is just ludicrous!
The rockets are all disposable. The spacecraft you want to "save for later" is just the small bit at the end of the rocket.

Look, this is stupid. Space travel is inherently costly in terms of resources. You just can't look at it the same as (say) driving a semi from Los Angeles to Phoenix. So much has been expended in getting that tiny cargo there that arguing over throwing out the box it came in is just ridiculous.

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694260)

They could, but in doing so they'd have to redesign it from its current philosophy of disposable carrying module to that of reusable spacecraft.

Actually, the ATV is designed to remain attached to ISS for months on end, with hatch open, basically acting as a big walk-in wardrobe. It's effectively another module while attached. Then you ditch it and it and all the accumulated rubbish in it burn up, and then you hook up a new one.

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (1)

bit01 (644603) | more than 6 years ago | (#22695728)

Yes, it's tragicomically wasteful. I don't understand why they can't design a cargo/supply ship that STAYS IN ORBIT. I mean, sure, let's go ahead and de-orbit the ISS trash in some kind of disposable carrying module -- but leave the ship itself in orbit, and design it so it can potentially be refueled from the station later. Then just "park" it in orbit a few miles from the Station, and leave it there. At some point in time, we could probably think of something useful to do in space with a handful of these -- and we would finally have the "pickup truck in space" that NASA wanted a few years ago. The whole concept of multi-million-dollar disposable rockets is just ludicrous!

It is strange. It is insanely expensive to put mass, any mass, into orbit. It is surprising that they deliberately de-orbit it after investing all that money in it.

I hope somebody really has done the numbers on disposal in detail and they're not just doing some bureaucratic default.

I would expect that station keeping fuel would be comparatively small compared to lift fuel and even shit+organics could be useful for a future orbital greenhouse in addition to recycling metals etc. in a solar furnace.

---

Creating simple artificial scarcity with copyright and patents on things that can be copied billions of times at minimal cost is a fundamentally stupid economic idea.

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (1)

Criton (605617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22697228)

Th Russians are doing this with a craft called Parom and another vehicle called Kliper that will replace Soyuz and Progress.

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (1)

Sigurd_Fafnersbane (674740) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693098)

Re-usable makes sense only if it is cheaper and uses fewer resources than disposable. I have yet to hear the case for re-usable toilet paper. Why should re-usable space-ships make sense?

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (1)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693262)

Isn't it sad that 50 years into the space program our resupply plan for the ISS is based on single-use ships?
No, it's no sadder than the fact that 100 years into the carbonated soft drink program our containment strategy has gone from nothing but reusable glass bottles to largely PET and aluminum containers of a disposable nature. Designing an item for reuse is not always better.

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (1)

Jartan (219704) | more than 6 years ago | (#22695314)

What's sad is that 50 years into the space program we still spend however many thousand dollars to get a pound of metal into orbit then for some mind boggling reason we decide it needs to come back down again just so we can say we have a real deal "spaceship".

Re:Non-reusable vehicles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22695588)

There could be some advantages to this automated technology that you're failing to see. Instead of shoving the empty resupply module off into space, why not use these to expand the capacity of the station itself? (After use you don't need it to return a crew with.) So the smart thing to do would be to make some modules quite a bit larger sans life support or re-entry capability. (Trade off density for volume at a given amount of mass.) These could then re-attached elsewhere to the station and developed into livable or research space. And it'd also be smart to have a few extra modules attached with re-entry capability as well. Those could reduce risk to the crew, since you'd have more than one "life raft" if anything goes wrong. It would eliminate worry about being cut off from a single escape plan in any danger situation. Also with some spares of that type, anybody gets sick they can go home w/o requiring a special mission or endangering the rest of the crew with no means of escape themselves.

why refueling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22692330)

From TFA: "About half of the payload onboard Jules Verne ATV is re-boost propellant, which will be used by its own propulsion system for periodic manoeuvres to increase the altitude of the ISS in order to compensate its natural decay caused by atmospheric drag."

If there is an atmospheric drag, that means there is an observable presence of molecules around the ISS. The station has plenty of solar electricity, why can't they collect the molecules surrounding the station, and use that molecules as propellant mass in ion engines to counter the decelerating effects of the drag? Something like jet propulsion system? If a particle leaves ISS with greater momentum than the one it had entering it, then ISS has accelerated a bit.

Re:why refueling (2, Insightful)

Woek (161635) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692620)

Interesting idea. Your last statement is only valid if there is no drag resulting from molecules not entering the intake, though. The intake needs to be large, which would be cumbersome... but still.

Re:why refueling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22695226)

Your last statement is only valid if there is no drag resulting from molecules not entering the intake, though. The intake needs to be large, which would be cumbersome... but still.
Well, that last statement was based on premise that momentum received from (or, lost on) particles not being accelerated, could be made up for by very high acceleration of those particles which are captured by the system. Sum of momentums with non-favorable sign (particles hitting the front of the hull) should be equal or less then the sum of momentums of particles accelerated by the spaceship.

Considering the method of acceleration, I agree jet engine like construction with intake opening would be ridiculous. I thought more like... if we could ionize incoming, frontal stream (perhaps using some sort of high voltage wire grid, or simple metallic plates which would emit photoelectrons when illuminated by Sun) "in front", then do something akin to what is done inside linear particle accelerators down on Earth, deflect them (using constant magnetic field, perhaps from superconducting wire coil around the station) to pass by (preferably UNDER, i.e. Earthwards) the ISS and accelerate them with electric field (more wire grids) to make up for momentum difference received from them, we wouldn't really need the intake at all. It all depends on energy equation: would additional solar panels on ISS receive enough energy to allow for it to be done while not introducing too much additional drag?

Containers? (4, Insightful)

ghoul (157158) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692382)

When will we shift to containerization of space cargo. Containers have already changed the game in air, sea and land cargo transport. Why not Space? If we could develop a standard cargo space container which could be handled by the soyuz rocket , the Ariane rocket, the space shuttle, the Japanese HTV, the Chinese Long March or the Indian GSLV we would have come a long way in moving towards commercialization of space. Yes we need multiple suppliers of cargo vessels to avoid single point failures but why do they all have to be different designs?

Re:Containers? (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692592)

If we could develop a standard cargo space container which could be handled by the soyuz rocket , the Ariane rocket, the space shuttle, the Japanese HTV, the Chinese Long March or the Indian GSLV we would have come a long way in moving towards commercialization of space.

You apparently don't appreciate the payload differences.

Soyuz = VW Beetle
Shuttle = tractor trailer

They are all different designs, because they were designed at different times, by different people/countries. We are still in the infancy of space flight. Sea/land container standardization didn't happen for centuries.

Re:Containers? (2, Informative)

(H)elix1 (231155) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692986)

You apparently don't appreciate the payload differences.

Soyuz = VW Beetle
Shuttle = tractor trailer


Perhaps a better comparison would be the Proton heavy [globalsecurity.org], which can push 44,100 lb to LEO, 12,100 lb to GTO, 4,850 lb to GEO. The Soyuz [globalsecurity.org] is 15,400 lb to LEO. Not all cargo needs to go up on a heavy, however, as the (relatively) cheap Soyuz do the job.

The shuttle, payload to 53,700 lb to LEO, 8,390 lb to GTO. It also goes EOL in two years, with optimistic hopes that the US heavy will actually fly in 2014.

Re:Containers? (4, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693342)

You want to know what happens when you standardize too soon? You end up with lock in, which leads to problems down the road when you learn what you really need. (See "IBM PC, History Of" and "HTML Standards, history of".)
 
The other problem is that vehicles you list have a wide variety of performance characteristics. A single standard 'container' (vehicle) that fit them all would end up being limited to the least common denominator.
 
And lastly - competition is good. Competition breeds innovation.

Size does not matter (1)

ghoul (157158) | more than 6 years ago | (#22697364)

Not every ship carrying containers is the same size either. They just carry more of them if they are larger and less if they are smaller. We could have a container carried by teh PSLV and maybe ten of the same carried by the Ariane. Frankly the shuttle would be the wrong vehicle to carry cargo as it needs to be man rated and a cargo vehicle doesnt need to be.

standardized containers (1)

jsepeta (412566) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693476)

so many people think they can build a better mousetrap, while overlooking the benefits of using a universal standard (like the decimal system, or the dewey decimel system, or screws that tighten when you turn them right)

Re:Containers? (1)

Criton (605617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22697218)

I'd go with the MPLM as a start for a standardized container and make them in 9,000kg, 18,000kg, and 27,000kg sizes.
For smaller vehicles maybe have spacex or orbital design something.

Can also carry people (3, Interesting)

hattig (47930) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692516)

The module is pressurised, so it can be used to carry people. I guess that means that ESA now has gained human launch capability. I don't know if the module can safely carry people back to Earth though, in an emergency situation, like Soyuz.

Re:Can also carry people (1)

Woek (161635) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692564)

No, it burns up during re-entry, has no shielding whatsoever. Perhaps you could theoretically use it to bring people up, but it would get rather crowded up there if you can't take them back ;-)

Re:Can also carry people (1)

pe1rxq (141710) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692586)

It has no heat shield... It will burn up on reentry.

Re:Can also carry people (1)

Daneboy (315359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692610)

But why not just leave it in orbit? Wouldn't it potentially be useful if we had a few crafts in orbit that could be used by the ISS crew (or the crew from other, future stations) to move around up there?

Re:Can also carry people (3, Insightful)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692680)

Move where? There's not exactly many interesting places up there. These things would most likely just get in the way, especially since they won't remain up at the altitude the ISS is at (the ISS needs fuel to prevent deorbiting after all).

Re:Can also carry people (3, Interesting)

Daneboy (315359) | more than 6 years ago | (#22692768)

I agree there aren't many reasons to move around up there today -- but there may be in the future. I'm just thinking that, given the presence of maneuverable ships in orbit, keeping at least one or two of them up there would give us a capability we would not otherwise have.

Maybe they could be dire-emergency lifeboats, giving the ISS crew an in-orbit shelter where they could wait for a rescue shuttle? Maybe they could take astronauts out on satellite repair missions? Maybe they could be used to to move cargo orbiting structures we haven't even thought of yet?

Again, I'm not so much thinking of what we'd do with them now -- but it costs a lot money to get 'em into orbit, and keeping them there would most likely be less expensive than launching something else if/when we need an orbital taxi for something.

Re:Can also carry people (1, Troll)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693096)

but it costs a lot money to get 'em into orbit, and keeping them there would most likely be less expensive than launching something else if/when we need an orbital taxi for something.

I'll bet your the kind of guy who has every last bit of computer junk you've ever bought stuffed in closets somewhere because you might need it "for something". Then you find out that nobody uses parallel ports anymore ...

The flaw in your argument is that you think that leaving orbiting stuff up there is "just" simple. And cheap.

In reality, moving anything in space is expensive. Keeping track of things in space is expensive and time consuming. Keeping stuff in any particular place in space is expensive, time consuming, a significant engineering problem and doesn't always work out."Stuff" (especially stuff that supposed to do something) wears out in space. It's a very hostile environment.

We don't have those cute little space tugs that folks envision to run around and hoover up the mess we're making. When / if those appear it might make sense to keep stuff up there "just in case". Right now, it's better to just clean out the closet.

Re:Can also carry people (2, Interesting)

Dun Malg (230075) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693482)

...it costs a lot money to get 'em into orbit, and keeping them there would most likely be less expensive than launching something else if/when we need an orbital taxi for something.
See, right there is the trouble with your entire line of reasoning. It's not less expensive to keep a fairly heavy empty box in LEO on the off chance you might find a use for it later. They have to send the resupply ships all the time just to keep the ISS running. You sound like my mother. Stop cluttering up the garage with empty boxes! If you need a box for something, you can just buy one, and then you'll get the right size box to begin with. With the enormous costs associated with the delivery of space cargo, arguing over the box it came in is ridiculous.

Re:Can also carry people (1)

kramulous (977841) | more than 6 years ago | (#22695074)

Yes, but boxes do come in handy from time to time. When you move, do you not try and sniff out where the boxes are (IP to Seinfeld)? It can be useful to have a couple on hand. That is the reason why 'yo mutha' keeps them around.

Re:Can also carry people (2, Insightful)

TheGavster (774657) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693436)

I wonder this about all of our "used up" space modules. It's a fairly common near-future sci-fi theme to have fuel tanks and payload vehicles strapped together up in space as the nucleus of space stations; I wonder what the real-world problems are that keeps us from actually doing it.

Re:Can also carry people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22695674)

The similarity between space station modules and e.g. fuel tanks is entirely superficial. They're both cylindrical in shape and made from metal, but the similarity ends there.

Probably the biggest issue is that space components have very limited production runs, which means that the design cost tends to be far more significant than both marginal production cost and "delivery" cost. The end result is that the increased manufacturing and delivery costs for two distinct components are outweighed by the vastly increased design cost of a single component which does both jobs adequately.

The main reason why we don't have flying cars is that not only would one would cost more than a car and a (light) aircraft combined, but it would also perform worse at either task than the corresponding single-purpose alternative.

Robots will take the sky away from you mere humans (4, Interesting)

RKBA (622932) | more than 6 years ago | (#22693230)

The statement from Nasa chief Mike Griffin is a good example of what's wrong with NASA: "...it's only a step from there to an independent, European manned-spaceflight capability; and I for one would like to see it." [bbc.co.uk]

Nasa chief Griffin wants Europe to waste hundreds of millions of dollars like the USA has wasted putting people in space and keeping them there, instead of using the money for legitimate scientific research with unmanned spacecraft!? The future of space belongs to robots. People have no place in space. Perhaps someday robots will be intelligent enough to prepare habitats on the moon or even Mars for human beings, but involving humans in the process is tremendously costly because of the need to insulate humans from the harsh environment - whereas properly designed automated machines work quite nicely even in the hard vacuum and temperature extremes of space. This is the lesson the Europeans are teaching NASA with their highly Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV). The ATV and its descendents will prove the superiority and cost effectiveness of robots in space over humans.

If the Europeans are smart, they will strap a couple of rockets onto the International Space Station (ISS) and develop a control system smart enough to slowly tug the ISS out of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and into Low Moon Orbit (LMO) autonomously. It could then be used as a way station in the journey from the Earth to the Moon, or even crashed on the Moon with the intent of salvaging it for scrap and building materials later. It takes roughly the same amount of energy to move a mass from the earth's surface into LEO as it does to move that same mass from LEO outwards fast enough to reach escape velocity from the Earth altogether. Even nicer, the trip to the Moon could be slow and leisurely because the impatient and gluttonous humans wouldn't be along. We machines might even be able to make do with Ion engines for the cruise phase from the Earth to the Moon.

Re:Robots will take the sky away from you mere hum (3, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694128)

but involving humans in the process is tremendously costly because of the need to insulate humans from the harsh environment - whereas properly designed automated machines work quite nicely even in the hard vacuum and temperature extremes of space.

Of course there is more to the issue that you fail to mention. Humans are extremely flexible and robots... aren't. Humans can make repairs on station... robots can't. Etc... Etc...
 
Then there is the issue of working speed - what it has taken three years for Spirit to accomplish would have taken a human geologist a mere three days.
 
 

If the Europeans are smart, they will strap a couple of rockets onto the International Space Station (ISS) and develop a control system smart enough to slowly tug the ISS out of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and into Low Moon Orbit (LMO) autonomously.

Lets hope they are also smart enough to build an entire new electronics system for the Station as the passage through the Van Allen belts will fry it all. Lets also hope they come up with some new radiation shielding, as the station will be uninhabitable due to the increased radiation on the other side of the belt.
 
 

Even nicer, the trip to the Moon could be slow and leisurely because the impatient and gluttonous humans wouldn't be along. We machines might even be able to make do with Ion engines for the cruise phase from the Earth to the Moon.

If having humans onboard was the reason why the trip was made so fast, you'd have a point.

Replace yourself then (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694702)

Robots are capable of posting on Slashdot 24 hours a day.. they don't need sleep, and most of what they say is more insightful than the average Slashdot user.

Based on what I see of your postings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22695564)

I think that you are in serious need of a bot to replace yourself. Tsk, tsk. Flamebait; trolls; Just about any bot of them would have improved that average. Look, if you are going to slam others, then be sure not to do it, when you stunk up the net for the last couple of days.

But can Europe & Russia afford it after 2015? (2, Interesting)

heroine (1220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22694548)

There may B 2 servicing methods, but when NASA is still set to run out of space station money in 2015, they're still set to deorbit it.

Also, NASA still doesn't seem to have a plan for replacing space shuttle capacity before 2015 besides throwing peanuts at a bunch of startups & hoping for the best, one of which took the money & ran.

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