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Archive for the ‘NASA’ Category

NASA’s plans to return astronauts to the moon are dead. So are the rockets being designed to take them there — that is, if President Barack Obama gets his way.

Sayeth Orlando Sentinel.

Haven’t followed NASA’s latest movements. The Augustine panel had some potential but stuff seems to have withered down. The organization seems to be a wannabe monument builder without a job. People might want something more practical than monuments, at least I hope they would. Even when NASA has such huge talent and competence in many areas, it fails to function as a sensible whole in defining strategic human space flight. And then there are the legacy issues. One of which is that of Mike Griffin.

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Clark Lindsey comments on how Arianespace just raised prices instead of lessening costs. I’m reminded of Rob Coppinger’s recent visit to Kourou, their launch site. It just costs a lot to keep a city going in the middle of jungle, and when that cost must be paid by the monthly rocket flight customers only, it gets expensive per flight.

A lot of ideas have beend expounded on expendable rocket manufacturing and reusable refurbishment costs. But it seems the integration before launch is terribly expensive as well, if not the most expensive part. And the launch control costs as well, as does mission control.

Airports are expensive facilities as well, but they are still cheap per trip since the throughput is large. Though I don’t know how smaller airports manage, if they still need radars, passenger and aircraft services etc…

Anyway, this should be a very important focus. It’s less sexy than the sleek fast machines, but lays the important ground work for space access.

The suborbital trips might be good training and experimentation for this. Virgin galactic seems to opt for grandeur with huge custom facilities, making it into something like a theme park. I do wonder if XCOR’s working on something more modest. This might make a huge difference to their profit margin per flight…

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A project you can partake here. Rewriting some NASA GISS temperature record code in Python at first.

I’d go further and say things like these should not be volunteer efforts… government codes for something important like this should be open (and GISS is) with people being paid to update and keep them in good shape. Hopefully they can take things like these as templates.

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Doug Stanley, the notorious ESAS leader has said some strange things (this is his option three, one being Ares I and two Ares V):

Eliminating Ares 1 and 5 and all shuttle infrastructure could save NASA future costs that could eventually be applied towards exploration by significantly reducing the workforce and fixed infrastructure costs. This approach would require “commercial” crew transportation for ISS and exploration missions, and would likely require propellant depots to compensate for the smaller commercial launch vehicles. This was not politically feasible in 2005, but perhaps could be today. Additional detailed cost analysis is required, however, to determine the true cost of a procurement that would require paying for two human-rated capsules and launch vehicles to refine the rather optimistic estimates of the Augustine committee.

Umm. The multi-launch scenario technical analysis in ESAS was a travesty. (One launch pad-> too many delays->multi launch not an option. Hello? And lots of other things, like the unbearable cost of manrating, which suddenly vanished a couple months ago when Doug last spoke…) And now Doug is turning around and saying it might be more politically feasible today? Way to wash your hands! So, politics tolerates more launch delays now? Or politics is sufficiently advanced to launch from more than one pad (or VIF)?

I’ve certainly heard stories from before ESAS of how Doug Stanley had been open minded to commercially launched capsules. So what was this nefarious political influence that caused the ESAS to be so bad and subsequently practically freeze most commercial progress for the next 5 years.

One quite obvious road was clear from day one when shuttle retirement was a real thing in the future: a simple capsule on an EELV for ISS taxi. Those rockets exist and fly and have a history. The sooner development is started, the better, the smaller the gap. You can use that for other purposes as well.

I do agree that more than just the Augustine panel report would be nice.

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Photos of a certain large Soviet ground effect vehicle.

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Or what you are going to call it, an unrealized proposal from Aerojet around 1984. PDF Found on NTRS.

The idea was to have two turbopumps (like on SSME), but instead operate on the expander cycle. Two heat exchangers, two turbines, two pumps. One for each propellant.

 

aerojet_cycle

Both propellants go through a heat exchanger and an expander driving a pump

 

This is a LOX-hydrogen engine. Also this means that since there is the same propellant on both sides of the axle, in the turbine and in the pump, no elaborate seals are needed. Original intent for these engines was for in-space reusable stuff, that needs to be operated many times and for a long time without maintenance. Size was in the RL10 class, about 70 kN. (RL10 has grown though.)

aerojet_margin
Simplicity and margin were claimed

Think for example if you let a fired turbopump sit in space for a long time. Will some fuel leak to the oxidizer side through the seals? This could avoid that. (You can use helium purges too though but then you’ve got one more fluids you need to tank.)

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The Man. On Space Review. [EDIT: About a month ago, but I only just read it.] This is just excellent. So many things I agree with, that go against the stupid myths of spaceflight and space policy. If you read one space policy interview this year, this should be it!

“NASA is an organization that is dominated by fixed costs. In business terms everything is in the overhead,” he said. The committee found, with some effort, that the fixed cost of NASA’s human spaceflight program is $6–7 billion a year. “The bottom line is that they can’t afford to keep the doors open with they money they’ve got, let alone do anything with it.”

However, he said, if you’re trying to minimize costs, it makes more sense to use a smaller launch vehicle that flies more frequently and has other users and applications. The key to making that work for exploration architectures that require large amounts of propellant—and hence have driven the planning for heavy-lift vehicles like the Ares 5—is the use of propellant depots and in-space propellant transfer. “If you use in-space propellant transfer, it’s no longer true that you have to have a really big piece,” he said.

He said that while he had his own opinions on the right selection of launch vehicles, he didn’t have any insights on what direction the White House and Congress would go. “It’s really up to policymakers whether we have a space program or a jobs program.”

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