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The (near) future of space flight


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#1 jon3831

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Posted 06 February 2003 - 07:33 PM

Moderator's note: several posts were misplaced to the beginning of the thread during the server move. Their text has been added to the ends of the preceding messages.

Edited by Christopher, 04 March 2003 - 07:58 PM.

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#2 Delvo

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Posted 01 February 2003 - 03:04 PM

Last time a shuttle and crew died, American space flight involving people was halted for a couple of years, but came back. What will the second shuttle catastrophe do to space flight?

It isn't true that a shuttle launch will be necessary to retrieve the people on the station. The station has a re-entry vehicle already for just such strandings. And other countries have some kind of methods for going up to get them as well (although I don't know what, and I'm curious about the details). So the shuttle program is cancellable or suspendable.

It's been said that the program can't run on only three ships. Actually, it can, it'll just be limited to 75% of the workload the program carried before. This will put pressure on (or, depending on your perspective, create an opportunity for) space organizations around the world to pick up the difference.

I foresee the three remaining shuttles continuing to be used in the near future, after an investigation into this incident is done, BUT not another new ship of their class being built. I think this disaster will turn into phase one of a gradual process of phasing out the shuttle program as we've known it.

In the World According to Delvo... One thing they'll do at NASA and other agencies is, backed by public demand, push harder into the realm of possible unmanned completion of missions that have so far "needed" living crews to complete, or perhaps shrinking the size of a crew (and thus the vehicle they need). They'll also push harder on serious development of a different system to replace shuttles. Two other factors outside this morning's tragedy make this a good time for NASA to make this fundamental shift in its overall emphasized strategy. One is that award that's been set up to pay a bit of a windfall to any private person or organization that can design a system to replace the shuttles; it's been gaining popularity, but most especially among space enthusiasts who've been frustrated with NASA's perceived inactivity on real advancement beyond "their baby" the shuttle program. If NASA were to get more involved in that, it would only help both the effort itself and NASA's image. Also, many propulsion scientists have long wanted to develop nuclear propulsion, and they have just recently been freed of the ABM shackle preventing that.

If NASA's been slow to develop an alternative to shuttles, it's been largely because that's expensive, and diverting money and manpower to that would have meant scaling back the shuttle program, which would be a waste of the shuttles they already had. There's an inertia to break there, in making that initial move from using what you've got to working on something else you haven't got yet so that you can't use either one fully. Well, the hit the shuttle program took this morning might break that inertia; scaling back the shuttle program is no longer a decision, but it has just HAPPENED to them. That creates a whole new situation for them to respond to now. And in the new and different world of space travel that they now live in, I think revving up the handful space flight research projects that have been in the background for a while will look like the appropriate action under the new circumstances. After death comes rebirth.


#3 Enmar

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Posted 01 February 2003 - 04:47 PM

Quote

Also, many propulsion scientists have long wanted to develop nuclear propulsion, and they have just recently been freed of the ABM shackle preventing that.

Delvo, I don't think the people of Texas would appreciate that falling on their heads  :(

As for unmanned missions, I was under the impression that the astronauts themselves and the way their bodies were affected were maybe the most important part of the missions lately, as preparation to sending men to longer missions.

I just hope that the right decisions will be made, not the popular ones

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#4 Christopher

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Posted 01 February 2003 - 06:10 PM

Enmar, on Feb. 01 2003,16:47, said:

Quote

Also, many propulsion scientists have long wanted to develop nuclear propulsion, and they have just recently been freed of the ABM shackle preventing that.

Delvo, I don't think the people of Texas would appreciate that falling on their heads  :(
Maybe not, but that wouldn't be an informed fear.  It's not like they just stuff the plutonium in a cardboard box.  The containment units are designed to withstand explosions and shocks maybe ten times bigger than Challenger.

Besides, the way Dubya gutted Texas' environmental regs, radiation exposure is the least of their health worries down there.

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#5 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 01 February 2003 - 06:51 PM

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Delvo: And other countries have some kind of methods for going up to get them as well (although I don't know what, and I'm curious about the details).

The Russians would be the ones with those crafts.

That would be the Soyuz an old but fairly reliable workhorse of the Russian/Soviet space program.  It started out as a part of their plan to reach the moon or their counterpart to our Apollo program.  Since then it has gone through several upgrades and remained the mainstay of the Russian space program.  It has continued being in that role since the Buran Shuttle was abandoned after I think one orbital unmanned flight.  The craft was subsequently abandoned and the orbiter destroyed in a building collapse.  

The resupply vessels that will keep the ISS going while the shuttle fleet is down are the Progress cargo ship.  

Soyuz:
http://www.russiansp....com/soyuz.html

Progress:
http://www.russiansp...m/progress.html

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#6 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 01 February 2003 - 07:06 PM

NASA's New Challenge: Space Plane Plan Will Test Limits of Agency's Budget:
http://www.space.com...get_021223.html

Boeing has a page of some of their projects including the X-37 Space Plane
http://boeing.com/phantom/flash.html

What is going on with the Lockheed Space Plane?

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#7 Banapis

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Posted 01 February 2003 - 11:26 PM

Delvo, on Feb. 01 2003,20:04, said:

I foresee the three remaining shuttles continuing to be used in the near future, after an investigation into this incident is done, BUT not another new ship of their class being built.

There's no question about the latter.  As has been mentioned on the news the cost of building a new shuttle would be prohibitive.  The shuttle assembly line doesn't exist anymore and a new one would have to be a handcrafted special order.

However (just to throw this out for discussion), there is a cheaper alternative: the Enterprise.  (Cheaper of course being a relative term because it would still be quite expensive).  A lot of people erroneously refer to Enterprise as "non-spaceworthy" when a more accurate description would be "not equipped for spaceflight."  

It was always intended that after Enterprise's flight tests with the 747 she would return to Palmdale and be fully fitted out for spaceflight after Columbia had been finished. However, the engineers determined a new way they could achieve greater payload performance and decided instead they would fit out the shuttle test frame as an orbiter in its own right.  Hence, Structural Test Article 099 became Orbiter Vehicle 099 - the Challenger.

Also, inspections of Enterprise's spaceframe in 1996 revealed revealed little wrong with the vehicle structurally, and in many respects she had suffered less corrosion than some operational vehicles.

So what would be necessary to bring Enterprise up to spec?  Most notably:
1.) A Main Propulsion System.
2.) A Crew Module
3.) Probably, replace all the vehicle's wiring.

Probably won't happen, but I think it's something NASA should seriously consider as stopgap measure until the shuttle's replacement is ready for service.

Quote

One thing they'll do at NASA and other agencies is, backed by public demand, push harder into the realm of possible unmanned completion of missions that have so far "needed" living crews to complete, or perhaps shrinking the size of a crew (and thus the vehicle they need).

Personally, I don't see public support for manned spaceflight diminishing any time soon.  Everyone seems to agree we must - and will - go back to space.  It would be a terrible perversion of the Columbia tragedy to use the deaths of these 7 heroic astronauts - who all believed manned spaceflight was worth the risk - to campaign against the cause they believed in.

Banapis


#8 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 12:59 AM

Quote

Banapis:  However (just to throw this out for discussion), there is a cheaper alternative: the Enterprise.  (Cheaper of course being a relative term because it would still be quite expensive).  A lot of people erroneously refer to Enterprise as "non-spaceworthy" when a more accurate description would be "not equipped for spaceflight."

I’ve mentioned this one a few times today on this board and another one.  Apparently they considered refitting Enterprise after the loss of Challenger.  Enterprise is however apparently too heavy and the expense would have been higher than actually making a new orbiter.  

There is another problem that would hold up refitting Enterprise or building another shuttle.  Apparently when they built Endeavor they had large components in storage that they used in her construction.  They never bothered to replace those stocks that were depleted.  .

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#9 Banapis

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 01:28 AM

CJ AEGIS, on Feb. 02 2003,05:59, said:

Apparently they considered refitting Enterprise after the loss of Challenger.

True.

Quote

Enterprise is however apparently too heavy and the expense would have been higher than actually making a new orbiter.

Very much so, Enterprise's weight and lesser payload capabilities are definite negatives.  However, the idea floating around with the 1996 survey of Enterprise by the United Space Alliance (LockMart & Boeing) was to compensate for this by completing Enterprise as an unmanned orbiter vehicle - thereby eliminating the weight of the crew module and other systems associated with manned flight.  But with the pricetag involved, the project never got off the ground.

Another difference to remember is that now there is no longer a shuttle producing facility.  After Challenger in 1986, the Palmdale facility was still around (Atlantis having been finished in '84) and the economies weighed in favor of building a bigger and better space shuttle than completing the older one.  While completing Enterprise would have been somewhat cheaper, cost/benefit analysis indicated a brand new improved space shuttle was worth the additional cost.  Without that facility to handle full space shuttle manufacture, the economics would now seem to weigh differently.

And you're right about Endeavour being built with spare parts.  Another factor to consider is the fact Enterprise itself has been periodically cannibalized for spares.

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#10 Banapis

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 01:40 AM

I thought I replied to this one earlier, guess I didn't.  It's also another argument against fitting out Enterprise.  

Delvo, on Feb. 01 2003,20:04, said:

It's been said that the program can't run on only three ships.

That's not entirely correct.

Columbia itself was too heavy to handle the ISS payloads. She was only scheduled for three more flights:

1.) A non-ISS Nov 2003 flight. (She was to carry Christie McCauliffe's backup, Barbara Morgan, into space)
2.) The lightest ISS payload in 2004.
3.) One Hubble maintenance flight in 2005.

There's no reason to believe the schedule can't be tweaked to allow Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour to cover these missions in the short term.

Banapis


#11 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 03:31 AM

I’d say it would be better to attempt to run the program on the three shuttles. Enterprise looks like she would be a mess to refit with very little payoff for it.  It seems like as you noted we might be able to make do with three of them.  The Russians have a very reliable program with Soyuz and Progress and we have the unmanned boosters packages.  Between Delta V and Atlas 4 we have some descent boost capability along with the Russian Proton.  So with some additional funds and rearrangement of missions maybe the Russian space program could take up slack while we run three shuttles.

As for building a new shuttle I just don’t see the point in it considering the production lines are gone and they are essentially 1970s vintage technology despite all the upgrades.  I’d rather see those resources allocated into a crash program involving the X-33 and Venturestar.  The X-33 did have a lot of problems with budget overrun but it seems to be the most developed of the programs.

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#12 MuseZack

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 01:07 PM

Trying to think outside the box a little, would it perhaps be viable to help fund the Russians to get their Buran shuttle and Energia heavy lift rocket programs back up and running to take up the slack while the next generation shuttle/ space plane program is developed?

My understanding is that despite losing one model in a building collapse, there are still two partially built Buran models floating around somewhere.  And if their website is to be believed, (http://www.buran.ru/htm/molniya.htm)  the design company has a lot of really useful expertise that we could put to work in an affordable fashion.

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#13 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 02:32 PM

Quote

Trying to think outside the box a little, would it perhaps be viable to help fund the Russians to get their Buran shuttle and Energia heavy lift rocket programs back up and running to take up the slack while the next generation shuttle/ space plane program is developed?

Does anyone have any details on the Energia and how it compares to the Titan, Delta V, and Atlas 4?  

Quote

My understanding is that despite losing one model in a building collapse, there are still two partially built Buran models floating around somewhere.

Well we have two problems with Buran.  The first is that Buran is still the same vintage era technology as our own space shuttles.  The only problem is they are Soviet 1970s vintage era technology so most likely they have some major issues compared to the STS.  It would probably be cheaper to do a full refit and attempt to reduce the weight restrictions on Enterprise.  That said the Russians can do miracles with nothing for the space program and Buran did have a few performance advantages over the shuttle

As for the two models that are still floating around I believe I have hear where at least one ended up.  Apparently at least one Buran is now at some amusement park with a restaurant in the cargo bay.  If Enterprise is such a nightmare to refit then I can just imagine what it would take to refit an amusement park display.  I shudder to imagine what condition the other might be in considering how the Navy is rusting at their piers.  . I still doubt whether they could getting anything going before we could get Venturestar together.  I know Lockheed Martin and the USAF were still playing around with the idea the last time I checked.    
     
I wonder though as to how much the ceramic heat shields on the STS weight?  I’ve heard mentioned a few times that a more advanced and stronger heat shield potentially lighter(?) heat shield was passed up in favor of the ceramics due to cost.  Maybe that system could be used to nip some weight off of Enterprise if an attempt was made to get her up to spec as a stopgap?

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"Their sailors say they should have flight pay and sub pay both -- they're in the air half the time, under the water the other half""
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#14 MuseZack

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 02:46 PM

Here's a little info on the current status of the Energia: http://k26.com/buran...ia/energia.html

Simply put, the thing is a monster, with a lift capacity into orbit that dwarfs the Saturn 5.   The Russians may have their problems, but they still build the best heavy lift orbiters in the world, and I wish we'd make better use of their expertise in these areas....

Zack

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We shall harness for God the energies of Love.
Then, for the second time in the history of the world,
we will have discovered fire."
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#15 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 04:24 PM

MuseZack, on Feb. 02 2003,19:46, said:

Here's a little info on the current status of the Energia: http://k26.com/buran...ia/energia.html
Thanks for information Zack.  

Ah I was also wrong the static tester was the one that was converted into a ride.  It looks like according to that site that Kazhastan now owns Buran 1.01 after being bartered. Why Kazhastan would want an orbiter baffles me.  I don’t like the sounds of the fact that 1.02 might be stored outside; that might very well rule her out.  Though Enterprise has also been exposed to the elements for sometime.

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#16 Banapis

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 04:36 PM

With regards to the Buran, the only completed one still in existence is no longer the property of Russia, but Kazahkstan. And as the link Zack provided indicates, it likely has been, and may still be, left outside exposed to the elements.

I should say, though, the January issue of Air & Space, which has an article on the Burans titled "White Elephants," states that the 2 completed Burans were both in hangar storage "until very recently" when the hangar collapse occurred that destroyed the only one to make it into space.  (The issue also has a feature on the X-37).

The Gorky Park Buran was the full-scale analog built for vibration and stress tests.  You apparently sit in the cargo bay while watching a film of the shuttle rocketing into space, saving the Earth from meteorites, and then rendezvousing with Mir.  All for 160 rubles!  The park manager states it's the least popular attraction...

With regards to the Energia, it certainly is a marvelous machine.  The main drawback with it is that it makes operating the Russian space shuttles more expensive because the Energia unit, unlike its American counterpart, is a total throwaway after launch.

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#17 Banapis

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 05:00 PM

CJ AEGIS, on Feb. 02 2003,21:24, said:

Why Kazhastan would want an orbiter baffles me.  I don’t like the sounds of the fact that 1.02 might be stored outside; that might very well rule her out.

Kazakhstan sees the Baikonur spaceport as one of the country’s major potential economic assets.  They probably felt owning a shuttle would make the port that more attractive to commercial investors by increasing the number, and type, of services they could offer.

Quote

Though Enterprise has also been exposed to the elements for sometime.

It's my understanding that Enterprise has always been stored in a hangar.  It's currently at Dulles Intl. in Washington inside a temporary hangar with other craft that will become part of the new NASM annex that opens there in December.  Enterprise arrived at Dulles in November of 1985.

Some pictures of Enterprise comfortably situated in her temporary hangar can be found Here. They were taken in September.

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#18 CJ AEGIS

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 05:21 PM

Quote

Banapis: It's my understanding that Enterprise has always been stored in a hangar.

There is some reason I thought she was stored outside for at least sometime over the years.  Though I could very well be wrong as often happens.   :eek:

Where would one be able to obtain information on that 1996 assessment on Enterprise?

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#19 Banapis

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Posted 02 February 2003 - 06:09 PM

CJ AEGIS, on Feb. 02 2003,22:21, said:

Where would one be able to obtain information on that 1996 assessment on Enterprise?

I recall having read about the proposal in some magazine at the time, but I can't seem to find any detailed infromation online.  

The website of structural engineers Meyers Consulting features a picture of an engineer standing in front of Enterprise at her Dulles hangar and states their role was "structural and foundation design" so perhaps they were the ones to do the 1996 survey.

Edited to add this link to a 1996 post on sci.space.shuttle that discusses the particiulars of the inspection in more detail.  And this post from earlier today essentially reiterates what I've said with regards to Enterprise.

BTW, I think all this is probably a moot point now.  All the congressmen I've seen interviewed on TV today have indicated that rather than spend $2 billion on a replacement shuttle, they'd rather put the money toward a new vehicle to replace the shuttle itself.

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#20 Banapis

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Posted 03 February 2003 - 01:48 AM

Banapis, on Feb. 02 2003,21:36, said:

With regards to the Energia, it certainly is a marvelous machine.  The main drawback with it is that it makes operating the Russian space shuttles more expensive because the Energia unit, unlike its American counterpart, is a total throwaway after launch.
After further investigating the site to which Zack linked I found this:

Quote

It it worth noting, however,  that the first flight of Buran-Energia in space did not take place with recoverable side or core booster rockets, but this was still in the development phase of the shuttle's life. Future launches would feature the fully recoverable Energia system, which of course, never got to occur as the program was suspended.

So the system can apparently be made fully recoverable. :eek:

Scoot on over, I think I'll jump on the Energia bandwagon now!  ;) :D

Banapis



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