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Space Science

Japanese Shuttle has Successful Test Flight 55

Posted by michael
from the copycat dept.
spacecomputer writes "First test flight of scaled-down version of Hope-X is a success! They have additional test flights in the coming week, but have no funding to proceed beyond the test stage."
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Japanese Shuttle has Successful Test Flight

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  • Vacuum? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Trusty Penfold (615679) <jon_edwards@spanners4us.com> on Friday October 18, 2002 @02:23PM (#4480478) Journal

    Are they crazy?!? Everyone knows wings don't work in a vacuum.

    They want to build a tall, manly, rocket; like the Saturn V. That works in space, I know, I've seen that film what has got Tom Hanks in it.
  • by foistboinder (99286) on Friday October 18, 2002 @02:31PM (#4480526) Homepage Journal

    It's just of matter of time before low cost, high quality shuttles with great fuel economy become available. This is just the kick in the pants that the American shuttle industry needs to start being innovative.

    • I agree, it's long past time to create a vehicle that can get into and out of space, with a heavy payload, without the three stage rocket system. That having been said, it's not going to be easy, and this thing is a long way off. They haven't gone to work on the engine yet, and if they hope to bring any kind of sizeable payload into space, it's going to have to be one mamba-jamba of an engine, unless they have very tiny sattelites, which, knowing the Japanese and miniturization, they might. The article does mentions a re-useable rocket, so there is that.
      At any rate, I wish these guys the best, but I don't see this replacing the shuttle anytime soon.
      • ...if they hope to bring any kind of sizeable payload into space, it's going to have to be one mamba-jamba of an engine, unless they have very tiny sattelites...

        I asked this elsewhere. How many shuttle missions leave with a full payload? I believe that Hubble filled the cargo bay, as did the various ISS modules, and the European Spacelab. But doesn't that leave dozens of missions with partially loaded cargo bays?

        • But doesn't that leave dozens of missions with partially loaded cargo bays?
          Indeed, I am sure that not every mission that goes up has a full payload. And to blunt my earlier criticism, if this shuttle is more efficient then the US's (fuel wise, but also without the thousands of tiles of heat shielding on the bottom)Then the simple solution is to take more trips for larger projects.
    • by 0x69 (580798) on Friday October 18, 2002 @03:51PM (#4481081) Journal
      My impression is that America's 70's-era, pork-laden shuttle has been the LEAST economical way to get into space for quite a while. Japan can hardly make that worse.

      The shuttle's government anyway, so it doesn't respond to reality the way the auto industry had to when Japanese imports took off. (It'd be real nice, but I don't see this kicking Yankee political pride enough to make it happen.)

      There are lots of folks trying to make it in the space launch business, many with government subsidies, and not that much stuff that needs to be launched. I wish 'em the best, but I don't see how the Japanese could make money doing this. And their government is also BIG on pork...
    • Yeah and they found planet-X! and remember how they tried to steal Godzilla & Rodan to boot!

      ~*mumble* what! yes of course i'm sleeping!
  • Okey... (Score:5, Funny)

    by FroMan (111520) on Friday October 18, 2002 @02:54PM (#4480694) Homepage Journal

    Okey, when are they going to make the one for Dr. Evil, as evidently they can make one for Mini Me?

  • oh dear (Score:5, Funny)

    by jonnyfish (224288) <jonnyfish AT gmail DOT com> on Friday October 18, 2002 @02:57PM (#4480719) Journal
    I just hope this doesn't somehow involve space tentacles.
  • by !splut (512711) <sputNO@SPAMalum.rpi.edu> on Friday October 18, 2002 @03:21PM (#4480886) Journal
    I seem to recall hearing that Russia was having big financial problems with their space program, and that if they didn't scrape up funding in some form, that it may adversely impact the long term construction plans for the ISS over the next few years.

    Would the full size final version of this thinger be able to ferry big structural pieces or modules, in place of the Russian rockets? I get the impression that the it would be too small, which would suck.
    • Re:your sig (Score:2, Funny)

      by Myco (473173)
      Creativity killed the cat? That's curious.
    • I seem to recall hearing that Russia was having big financial problems with their space program, and that if they didn't scrape up funding in some form, that it may adversely impact the long term construction plans for the ISS over the next few years.

      The cheapest and best solution is probably to just fund the Russian space program. They already have dependable large rockets. It would be much more expensive to revive that kind of program in the US. If we decided to kick in more Europe might be convinced to do it too, especially if they could get the designs of Russia's rockets, since Europe only has smaller rockets.

      Japan has a very small program, they want to create a larger space program but they are in a deep 10 year depression with no end in sight. We could also adapt the Russian engine designs for the shuttles to lift larger payloads. I've read their engines are at least 10% more efficient, but they use much cheaper fuel so some re-engineering would have to happen for them to work with our stuff. Cheapest solution is to fund the Russians esp. if we can get the Europeans to pick up most of the tab in exchange for technology.

      It's also good from a world peace standpoint to keep rocket builders employed in Russia.

      Japan will at some point develop a space program, but it won't be fast tracked unless it really has to be (say if they feel they need to build tactical nuclear weapons, which they are severely antogonistic toward for all kinds of reasons.)
    • The ISS's lifeboat (Score:3, Interesting)

      by geoswan (316494)
      I seem to recall hearing that Russia was having big financial problems with their space program, and that if they didn't scrape up funding in some form, that it may adversely impact the long term construction plans for the ISS over the next few years.

      Yeah. The ISS has a Soyuz docked to it, to serve as a lifeboat, if the ISS suffers a disastrous failure. The Soyuz can fit three spacesuits, so when the shuttle leaves they only leave three scientists aboard the shuttle at any one time.

      Well, the Soyuz isn't left there permanently. They loft a new one every six months or so. So, if the Russians pack up their Space program either the ISS inhabitants have to get left there with no lifeboat, or a substitute has to be designed.

      How difficult would designing a return module be? It wouldn't have to be as robust or sophisticated as a Soyuz, Apollo or Gemini, if its sole purpose was to serve as a lifeboat. It could be brought to the ISS by a shuttle, so it wouldn't need to control the one shot rocket that launched it. And, it wouldn't require the endurance of an Apollo or Soyuz. Its mission would last less than an hour or two. It would only have to endure long enough to bring the ISS researchers back to Earth.

      • by Lars T. (470328) <Lars...Traeger@@@googlemail...com> on Friday October 18, 2002 @07:56PM (#4482571) Journal
        Well, Nasa has stopped their ISS crew rescue vehicle program last year for cost reasons. See here. [space.com]
  • what use? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by u19925 (613350) on Friday October 18, 2002 @04:12PM (#4481292)
    what exactly are the usages of all these space shuttles, including the most successful of all, the US space shuttle program? The launch cost is way more than the traditional rocket. Most commercial usage of any space vehicle is to put satellites in orbit and space shuttle doesn't offer any benefits over traditional rocket.

    Most of the manned mission to space has just resulted into exploring curiosity without any real scientific research (certainly not worth the cost).

    It was ego that resulted in mission to moon. It was miscalculation of cost that resulted into US space shuttle (they thought that the reusability of space shuttle boosters will make it cheaper than traditional rockets). No wonder, during the time, space shuttle was developed, Europians overtook US in launching commercial satellites. Russian space shuttle Buran is a failure but their traditional rocket business is successful. ISS hasn't produced anything scientifically or technologically to justify the cost. The only scientific advantage of US shuttle program could be successful launch and subsequent repair/upgrade of Hubble space telescope. Excluding this, the manned space mission have been mostly wastage of public money.

    • It was miscalculation of cost that resulted into US space shuttle (they thought that the reusability of space shuttle boosters will make it cheaper than traditional rockets).

      I read, a long time ago, that the US shuttle's design incorporates features to serve the USAF, or reasonable equivalent. The story, as I read it, was that NASA didn't think it could get the funding to build the shuttle if it didn't have allies inside the Beltway. Elements in the Defense department agreed to endorse the shuttle, provided they got input into its design. The large size of the shuttle was given as one of those compromises. The suggestion was that if NASA had been allowed to build a shuttle without design compromises, it would have been more successful.

      I'd welcome knowledgeable comments on this story. Sorry, I can't remember where I read it.

      As it turned out, the US military doesn't use the shuttle, do they? Don't they use the old one-shot rockets?

      Why does the shuttle have to be so big? Okay, Hubble, and the various ISS modules more or less fill the shuttle bay. But there have been something like 100 shuttle missions so far, how many of those missions had payloads that fully filled the cargo bay? They could all have been launched with big one-shot rockets, couldn't they? The 197?s Skylab was launched by a surplus Saturn V wasn't it?

      The Hubble repair missions could have been mounted from a more modestly sized shuttle, couldn't they?

      I read, something interesting back during the first years of Hubble's deployment, back before its optics were corrected, and everything was out of focus. NASA cut corners. They tested all the pieces separately, on the ground. But they didn't test the fully assembled telescope on the ground. I read that they considered doing so, but it required the construstion of a test jig. The test jig would have been expensive, and the decision was made to gamble.

      The story was that the US already possessed a test jig suitable for testing large space telescopes. But NASA couldn't use it, because it was top secret, because it was used to test the large telescopes of top secret spy satellites, which were focussed on the Earth.

      Can anyone debunk this story? If true, those satellites must have been launched by one-shot rockets.

    • Re:what use? (Score:4, Informative)

      by david.given (6740) <dg AT cowlark DOT com> on Friday October 18, 2002 @07:26PM (#4482468) Homepage Journal
      what exactly are the usages of all these space shuttles, including the most successful of all, the US space shuttle program?

      The space shuttle is not successful. The space shuttle is an utter disaster. In fact, the space shuttle is, arguably, the worst thing that ever happened to the American space programme.

      The problem is that the shuttle is trying to be both a man-rated lifter, a reusable lifter, and a heavy lifter, and as a result it does all three incredibly badly. It's a massive money pit that swallowed the American space station, SSTOs, the moon base, and any manned Mars missions...

      Put it like this:

      Space shuttle capacity: 6 people, 15 tonnes cargo; cost: $600M.

      Soyuz capacity: 3 people, no cargo; cost: $60M.

      Proton capacity: no people, 20 tonnes cargo; cost: $70M.

      This means that you could replace a single shuttle launch with the Russian alternative, launch three seperate vehicles, and have over four hundred million dollars in change! With a single shuttle launch budget, you could put nearly two hundred tonnes into LEO --- or sixteen tonnes into GEO, and the shuttle can't do that at all.

      Unfortunately, the shuttle is now become political, so noone's going to be able to get rid of it. It's going to hang around consuming more and more of NASA's budget, until eventually another one will blow up, and then NASA will be reorganised out of existence. Meanwhile, the Russians, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Pakistani, and basically anyone else with a clue (and alas, I don't live in such a country) will be using disposable launchers to maintain their space presence. The ISS will probably be kept up until the shuttle explosion, and then it'll be quietly evacuated and deorbited; but by then, there'll be other space stations, at least some of them privately funded.

      • "Meanwhile, the Russians, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Pakistani, and basically anyone else with a clue (and alas, I don't live in such a country)..."

        Let me get this straight, you are sad because you don't live in a country like Russia, Japan, China, or Pakistan? I think emigration is a lot more reliable way to regain your happiness than hoping the US will get a clue about it's space program. ;-)
  • funding??? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by evacuate_the_bull (517290) on Friday October 18, 2002 @04:15PM (#4481315)
    With development costs likely to be astronomical, however, Japanese space officials are hoping to develop the vehicle in conjunction with their counterparts in Europe and elsewhere.

    Japan previously worked on developing a space shuttle dubbed the Hope, but the project was frozen due to a lack of funds and other difficulties.


    Japan has been trying 'government by construction' for years trying to revitalize their economy and have achieved the industrialized world's biggest national debt. So where are they getting the money for a space program?

    Seriously, Japan just built an 11 mile long tunnel under Tokyo Bay in '97 that cost almost 11 billion dollars (1.44 trillion yen), yet no one uses it. Why? The toll is about $50. Does Japan really need a space program?

    I'm not from Japan and I don't pretend to be infallible - these are my thoughts on the subject. If you live in Japan, what do you think? Also, there was a good article on Tokyo [nationalgeographic.com] in last month's National Geographic, check it out in print if you can.
    • Public works projects are commonplace during times of economic recession in order to keep people in jobs. Well, that's how the politicians' rhetoric goes anyway. So the Tokyo-Chiba tunnel served its purpose in helping to keep the construction industry afloat. (It's no coincidence that the construction industry has vested interests in government either.) That virtually nobody uses the tunnel is besides the point. Yeah it's a daft policy, particularly in the eyes of the Japanese public who have to pay for it. But there you go. We elect the morons who implement these policies.

      The space program is something altogether different and it's hard to fathom the logic sometimes with respect to economics. The US had the largest national debt in the industrialized world during the 1980s, but it didn't stop them launching shuttles did it?
  • by WhiteChocolate42 (618371) on Friday October 18, 2002 @04:36PM (#4481485)
    I seem to remember a series of documentaries from the 1950's or so, detailing Japan's experiments with rocketry. As I recall, the rockets inevitably crashed and caused a beast that had slept for centuries to awaken and wreak havoc on the poor locals, who were often so distrought that they failed to make their mouths sync up with their screams of terror. Must we repeat this tragedy? I think we've all had just about enough Raymond Burr.
  • So this thing basically looks like Space Shuttle. If they were merely trying to copy the design, why not buy the good ole' US shuttle? Or a Russian model?
    Shouldn't they be trying something different?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The reason these things all wind up looking the same is simple: Math.

      In doing similar tasks, the same engineering problems present themselves. You have similar speeds, loads, thermal ranges, etc., that the device has to deal with. The delta wing shape is necessary for the ultra-high speeds during re-entry. The black and white color scheme is necessary for removing heat. The skin has to be ceramic because it deals with heat the best. You need big doors that open to get cargo in & out. The engine goes at the back, the people at the front, and pretty soon it looks quite similar to the Russian and American shuttles.

      Unrelated animals who have similar environments look similar. Unrelated plants evolve to have similar features when they exist in similar niches.

      The situation dictates the result.
      • The reason these things all wind up looking the same is simple: Math.

        In doing similar tasks, the same engineering problems present themselves.

        Buran, the Soviet shuttle, has been discussed here on slashdot in the past. I spent most of an afternoon following some links other slashdotters had provided to details of Buran's design.

        I found it fascinating. They do look similar. But there were some important differences, under the skin.

        One of the web-pages discussed the similarity in appearance of Buran and the American shuttles. It said that Soviet engineers had considered a number of hull designs, with differing appearances. The other hulls looked, on paper, as if they would be just as successful as the American hull design. IIRC the only advantage of the American hull design was that it was a proven design.

        The American shuttle uses strap on boosters fueled with solid fuel. Buran's boosters are liquid fueled, and it could strap on three of them. Consequently, it had a much larger lift capacity than the American shuttle.

        Buran's crew, at least four of them, were protected by ejection seats.

        It has been a year or two since I read these pages. I may not remember them correctly. But wouldn't Buran's liquid fueled boosters be innately safer than the American shuttle. Solid fueled rockets can't be shut down. If the challenger had liquid fueled boosters, would they have been able to shut down the booster, and have a greater chance of survival? Liquid fueled boosters wouldn't have had the dangerous "O ring" feature.

        • A little late replying but Buran *was* a direct copy of the US space shuttle. They figured not to try and build there own when they could copy the US's and improve/customize some things.

          At any rate Buran used the Energia [astronautix.com] as it's launching vehicle, the actual Buran spacecraft had, compared to space shuttle, very little thrust *on the spaceship itself*. On the other hand, Energia is, and was, the most powerful rocket ever constructed by man with the possible exception of the Saturn V. It was enormous powerhouse of a rocket. For more info read the link.
      • Max Faget (pronounced Fah-zhay -- he's a Cajun from Louisiana), designer of the pioneering blunt-face reentering Mercury spacecraft, commented on his proposal for straight wings in an early iteration of the Shuttle in an interview you can find be doing a Google on his name.

        Max Faget was the early and leading proponent of a blunt "capsule" instead of a winged reentry vehicle as a cost-effective solution to the reentry problem. His unique contribution was to have the "capsule" (Tom Wolfe tells us that astronauts hated that word -- they preferred "spacecraft", although capsule distinguishes the thing from lifting-body or winged-reentry vehicle) reenter ass-backwards -- the Air Force Corona/Discoverer capsule reentered face forward.

        An axi-symmetric capsule is zero lift, meaning you have little control over where it lands once you fire the retro rockets, and the G-forces can get quite high. You can give a capule a small amount of lift by shifting its center of gravity by rearranging stuff inside, reducing the G's a little bit and giving some control over where you land by doing a roll in the direction you want to head, all without sacrificing the minimal heat shielding requirement compared to a winged reentry vehicle. Gemini, Apollo, and Soyuz use this trick.

        The Faget straight-wing Shuttle was supposed to reenter belly first. His critics complained that straight-wing hypersonic vehicles aren't the most stable: Chuck Yeager's famous recovery of the X-1B going end or end and Mike Adam's fatal reentry in the X-15. What Faget explains is that by reentering belly first (think of it as angle of attack of 90 degrees -- in a full stall if you weren't going hypersonic), his straight winged shuttle works just like a capsule -- the belly of the Shuttle and the underside of the wing are like a cookie cutter applied to the underside of a traditional capsule. He argues that it is perfectly stable and works just like proven capsules.

        The trick is that as you come out of reentry, you have to do this kind of stall recovery maneuver descending from 80,000 to 60,000 feet and start flying like a conventional glider or airplane. This stomach-dropping transition maneuver, the higher G-load of a capsule style reentry, the limited choice of a landing spot compared to a delta wing Shuttle (the Defense department did not want to make emergency landings in Communist China), all conspired to shelve the straight-wing shuttle. The consequence of going with the delta wing, however, was much higher heat shielding requirements for which the infamous tiles were the answer, and now you know THE REST OF THE STORY.

  • But why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fmaxwell (249001) on Friday October 18, 2002 @07:01PM (#4482363) Homepage Journal
    The space shuttle has been a terrible disappointment in that its capacity is far lower than had been initially planned while its cost per pound of payload is far higher than had been predicted. Part of that is due to the fact that, regardless of its payload, it must be manned. Building a craft to support humans in space with adequate safety margins and backup equipment is incredibly expensive both in weight and cost. If we had to rely on the space shuttle to launch communications satellites into orbit, we would still be running trans-Atlantic cables for our communications needs.

    • Re:But why? (Score:3, Informative)

      by dschl (57168)
      If we had to rely on the space shuttle to launch communications satellites into orbit, we would still be running trans-Atlantic cables for our communications needs.
      But we are [google.ca]. How long is the lag on your transatlantic calls? Fibre optic trumps satellite communications except for extremely remote locations.
    • Re:But why? (Score:3, Insightful)

      I believe part of the whole problem is dependence on another nation for manned space missions. Europe, Russia and Japan all have solutions for sending satellites into orbit (and some are even better than the current American offerings), but none of them has anything that allows them to send people to space to service these satellites, for this the all depend on NASA. For this reason their manned missions depend on the politics of the USA. The way round this issue is to create their own shuttle. In doing so their aim is not necessarily to do anything better than the space shuttle, but to make something that does the job just as well.

      Long term the other space launch capable countries probably are researching alternatives. The only thing is research takes time and money. Basing your immediate solution on something that is known to work is the best alternative. While very similar the solution is likely to have innovations, that will make a difference. A good analogy are automobiles, since they all look more or less the same, but each have varying features based on what the manufacture feels is important. It does the job, so why change the approach?
      • but none of them has anything that allows them to send people to space to service these satellites

        Two problems:

        1. Only in the extremely rare exception of something like the Hubble Space Telescope is it cost-effective to service a satellite in orbit. It is much less costly to simply replace 99% of the satellites than it is to service them -- even for the U.S. which already has the Space Shuttle.

        2. The Space Shuttle is only capable of servicing LEO (low-Earth orbiting) satellites (typically less than 2000 km in altitude) and not GEO (geosynchronous) satellites which reside 36,000 km (22,500 miles) above the Earth's equator. That means that communications satellites can't be serviced by the Space Shuttle.

        By the way, I just finished up a two-year-plus contract at a firm that manufactures satellites, so I'm not talking out of any orifice other than the appropriate one.

        Basing your immediate solution on something that is known to work is the best alternative.

        Conventional rockets are known to work and boost payload and astronauts at a lower cost than our space shuttle. That's the point: We attempted to replace conventional rockets and learned that the replacement was inferior -- so why did Japan base their solution on the Shuttle? If Japan wanted to copy something, then they should have copied our conventional rockets.
        • These aren't their only rockets. The HOPE project was originally intended to be up and running now to be able to lend a hand with the ISS. Unfortunately Japan's economic climate makes it a bit difficult for the government to finish funding the project. It is indeed inefficient to send up manned crews to place a satellite into orbit which is exactly why most birds are launched using conventional rockets. In the cases of projects like the Hubble or ISS (which is a waste in itself) you need a reusable and manned craft.
  • Seems to me... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by dbasken (154373)
    1. it's not a shuttle
    2. it can't go even remotely near space

    At best, it can be described as a test plane, but calling it a space shuttle is a little much. Okay, it's ridiculous.
  • Anyone else notice that this is a JET POWERED vehicle? Laddy da, the Japanese have built an unmanned plane. Whoopee!

    Maybe they could put a camera on it and have it join our other unmanned recon planes above Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Sorry, mod me down but I am throuroughly unimpressed.

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