Posts Tagged ‘Depot’

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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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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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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There are a lot of implicit assumptions that heavy lifters of this or that throw weight must be used for future exploration beyond low Earth orbit.

These “needs” have never been logically derived from anything.

Yet space policy and exploration architectures must be based on rationality above all. There is no excuse whatsoever to do things on a whim. Hundreds of billions of dollars, and the future of humanity’s spacefaring are at stake.

There is no foreseeable need to launch over 25 tonne monolithic payloads to low Earth orbit in lunar exploration, and probably even that number could be seriously diminished with some more thorough planning. Orion, EDS, LSAM, all are below that weight, if they are refueled using a depot in space.

If the huge development and operational estimated costs for a heavy lifter rocket go away, then that money is freed for real exploration work. In-space hardware development, more launches, more missions and operations.

Flight rate is _the_ most important way of reducing launch costs, the single largest impediment for advancement of spacefaring, and the propellant depot enables a higher launch rate. Multi-launch scenarios with a propellant depot also enable competition, redundancy and flexibility, all very good things, ensuring safety, robustness and progress.

I repeat as a summary how

1) Solutions for space exploration, like any large endeavour, must be rationally justified. No baseless assumptions should remain.

2) The need of heavy lift is a baseless assumption. It can be one of the alternative ways of execution, but it can not be a starting point or an axiom.

3) The current architecture is heavily based on the implicit assumption of heavy lift. Hence a rational space exploration architecture would examine things from the ground up. It could end up with some radically different conclusions.

4) Propellant depots is one alternative way of executing space exploration beyond LEO, and it does not need heavy lift.

5) Propellant depots can, if executed correctly, increase launch rates many fold, and thus enable lower costs, progress, reliability, redundancy, robustness – all the things that the space shuttle promised but failed to do because it was a sole solution that could not sustain a high enough launch rate and was too costly.

6) NASA at the same time should keep on working with fundamental research, to enable continuous progress trends in space technology.

7) Space exploration should look as different from Apollo as possible – there should continuity and continuous improvement possibilities, robustness and progress. The architecture should be affordable as well.

8) New space technology, like cheaper launchers, should be demonstrated at a smaller, humble scale first. That way many things can be tried and progress is faster, for the same price and effort. One failure also will not be as critical.

9) There seem to be impediments for information flow inside NASA, and many professionally acknowledged things like propellant depots, EML2 rendezvous or space tethers are never even mentioned in NASA high level planning. This is not rational.

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