Archive for the ‘NASA’ Category

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.



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.)

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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Xombie NOW

Live stream just went up at http://qik.com/video/312581

they should be flying at 45 past whatever hour it is now in your time zone. Now on the pad loading propellants and helium.


And they did it! Congratulations! Also great accuracy.

The live cellphone video of the second flight was shot from quite close: http://qik.com/video/3126566

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id Software’s upcoming game Rage uses asteroid Apophis as the scene setter for a post apocalyptic world. (id is part of Zenimax now, which also owns Bethesda, who did Fallout, a similar scene but done with nuclear weapons…)

Is this even close to being realistic? No, because of multiple reasons.

You can check out the list of impact risks maintained by NASA here.

Apophis is zero on the Torino scale. The Torino scale is a balanced impact risk number, from zero to ten. There’s one one on the list at the time of writing. Apophis also has a 270 meter estimated diameter and not a very high velocity, 6 km/s.

We can use the impact effects calculator here for some gauging of what would happen. Even if we assumed it to be dense rock and the impact velocity to be 17 km/s, there wouldn’t be that huge effects (although they could be big locally).

Assuming it hits the ground, at 300 km distance from the impact site you would get a mild earthquake, and a sound as loud as heavy traffic. At 100 km you’d get a stronger earthquake, 6.7 on the Richer scale, and the fireball would be 4 times as bright as the sun. (Still probably no direct skin burns). You would get some sparse gravel ejecta at 100 km which means you wouldn’t want to be outside, but only very little dust ejecta at 300 km.

The main takeaway message is that since the asteroid is so small, the damage would not be widespread. You could not really destroy even two large cities with one. Hence no apocalypse.

If it hit the sea (likely), it could create a tsunami, and that could generate more damage to humans, depending on where it struck (this I don’t know very well), but the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and China Sea are probably very bad. The 2004 Tsunamis triggered by an undersea earthquake killed over 200,000 people.

It’s still very much worth observing and developing technology to prevent large asteroid strikes. It’s just that the public doesn’t seem to have any handle on what the effects are like.

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Skimming the document (thanks NSF, Florida Today). Cute how a launch without an upper stage at all in the heavy configuration works out for ISS (burn SM fuel for orbit):

Delta IV Orion options comparison with Ares I and STS from the Aerospace report

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From Hobbyspace, highlighted by Transterrestrial Musings:

The program of record (i.e. Ares I/V/Orion/Altair), which exceeds the expected budget substantially, will no longer be in the options table but kept separately just as a reference.


The historic words have been spoken. Now for a better future for NASA, for spacefaring and for humanity.

The Augustine panel has been good beyond my wildest imaginations. (My imagination is extremely pessimistic.)

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Jeff Greason is a rational person who simply gets it. It is mind boggling how completely opposite from someone like Mike Griffin he is.

See Jeff’s presentation with the Augustine Panel.

Paraphrasing, “we could go to Mars with Ares V but we shouldn’t – cause we couldn’t stay anyway”. Exactly. That’s the problem with NASA. (or the major one)

I bet he will be ignored completely.

Also, I would like to work for that guy. Too bad because of ITAR I couldn’t work in the USA.

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In the previous post.

I’ve been very tired and felt completely unable to have any effect on my life or on any other things for the last five days or so. This doesn’t mean that I’ve felt lazy – rather that what ever reasonable I have ever done, it has had zero effect on the world.

There won’t be propellant depots. There won’t be thorium reactors. There will always be these huge problems in my personal relationship(s). Or interaction.

NASA will waste its money on some half built heavy lifter, if it ever gets so far. Launch costs won’t go down in my lifetime, and there won’t be any real RLV:s.

Coal burning will just accelerate and the globe will warm a lot by 2100. I won’t be here to see it. And even more after that.

It’s of course, as a single person, unreasonable to expect to change much in such things.

But what has most demotivated me always:

My hands are, have been and will be completely tied in interaction with certain human beings. I can not change the will or situation of some other person. I can’t really even effect it, if the other person doesn’t want to.

The loss of power seems incredible and overbearing at times.

The only thing that one can do with people is leave them and move on. That’s a very limited way of interaction. But that’s what it’s always been and seems to always be.

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