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Euro-Russian Manned Space Vehicle Planned 163

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the no-clipping-mode dept.
drachton writes "BBC News reports that the 'European Space Agency (ESA) is proposing joining forces with Russia to develop a new vehicle for human spaceflight, the Clipper.' The head of the ESA permanent mission in Russia also told BBC that the Clipper 'is meant to service the space station and to go between Earth and an orbit around the Moon with six crew members.'"
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Euro-Russian Manned Space Vehicle Planned

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  • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gUUU ... inus threevowels> on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @02:23PM (#13668789) Homepage Journal
    Collection of random thoughts, aka A Brain Dump:

    1. This news is older than the hills.

    2. What's with the dates? The Clipper was supposed to be in service by 2010 [newsfromrussia.com], not 2011. Originally this would have put it ahead of the CEV, but the latest projections have the CEV flying by 2008.

    3. HOTOL [wikipedia.org], Skylon [wikipedia.org], Hermes [wikipedia.org]; need I say more? Russia obviously wants the money for building, not the enigineering experience of the ESA.

    4. "The Clipper would allow Russia and Europe to collaborate with the Americans on lunar exploration, allowing six astronauts to orbit the Moon and to act as a back-up rescue craft, if needed." I'd be happy if we collaborated, but I think it's a bit premature considering that Russia never landed anyone on the moon. Did they get close? Maybe. The details are a bit sketchy there. There certainly seems to be a coverup involved, but considering the number of "Moon Rockets" that Russia had blow up on the pad, I wouldn't have held my breath either way.

    5. You'll note that Russia is looking at a winged vehicle. Lockheed proposed a lifting body [wikipedia.org] for the CEV, but was turned down. I'm consoled, however, in that the CEV vehicle will be a small part of the future stack and very easy to replace. Even if the CEV flies capsules for the first couple of years, there's a strong liklihood that we'll go back to lifting bodies with reinforced carbon-carbon heat shielding. (For those of you who complain about carrying wings and landing gear into space, it really isn't that big of a deal. The problem with the Space Shuttle is that it's FREAKING HUGE so that it can carry satellite packages. Reduced to a more normal size for human cargo, its wings and gear wouldn't cost all that much in weight.)

    6. "The Clipper also enhances the possibility of space tourism." I just love Russian zeal. Those guys are never worried about the, "Why not?" =)

    7. "The development and operational side of the programme is expected to cost around 100m (£68m) euros a year." Am I the only one who thinks that price tag is a little low? Even if you expect Russia to take the brunt of the costs, you're still a billion or so Euros shy. According to this page [russianspaceweb.com], they are thinking of using the Zenit booster (now there's a hell of a ride) so I imagine that would help reduce the costs. Still...

    Personally, I wish them the best of luck. If all goes well, maybe the ESA will build its own Clippers and begin flying them. Their recent Galileo system certainly suggests that Europe is finally looking to be technologically independent from the US. :-)
    • On point 5, the main reason for having a winged vehicle is that is the only way to get a capability to bring significant mass down from orbit ("downmass" capability). Personally, I am sceptical about reusability for space vehicles even though NASA's specifications for the CEV include it. But winged vehicles are much more cute than capsules. This press release doesn't say anything about the launch vehicle. Any information?
      • by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gUUU ... inus threevowels> on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @02:52PM (#13669049) Homepage Journal
        On point 5, the main reason for having a winged vehicle is that is the only way to get a capability to bring significant mass down from orbit

        That's not the *only* reason. Wings are also safer for the crew for a variety of reasons:

        1. Fewer reverse Gs.
        2. Gentle touchdown. (Apparently, Cosmonauts often receive injuries when the capsule hits the ground.)
        3. The ability to control the flight.
        4. Aerobraking manuvers become possible.

        Of course, wings add a great deal of engineering difficulty to the design, but the US already has a great deal of experience with them.

        This press release doesn't say anything about the launch vehicle. Any information?

        It was in point 7, under this link [russianspaceweb.com]. Originally Russia was going to build a new "Onega" booster, but they seem to have settled on a Zenit [wikipedia.org].
        • 1. "reverse"? As in: "in the opposite direction than during launch"? 2. Parawing, retrorockets. 3. Soyuz can do that also...the only difference, when control fails, it goes back to ballistic mode. I wouldn't want to be in a "spaceplane" in which control fails... 4. Zonds made them succesfully...even though they were capsules. Wings are unnecesassary complexity IMHO...and even though US has experience, that still hadn't prevented last catastrophe. Russia doesn't have experience...they should stick with what
        • You know what? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by WindBourne (631190)
          I am just happy if we can get a useable stack going and can get back into space. After that point, we can redesign the CEV. Yeah, there will be some that will say that we need to stay with the current one (the new CEV, whatever it is). But I am guessing that once we have a more useable design (multiple parts that function more akin to a lego set) esp WRT to getting a heavy lifter, then we will tinker with each part. Perhaps the CEV will be judged to be harsh. Then offer up a Y-Prize.
        • I thought the main reason for using lifting bodies to to have greater crosstrack.. i.e., you can have a landing sight further away from your orbit's groundtrack which means you don' t have to sit around in your orbit waiting for the groundtrack to go over your landing site.

          1. Fewer reverse Gs.

          The deceleration from a capsule landing should be in the same direction as the acceleration during launch.... but for a lifting body the directions are different... which, to me, implies more problems with reverse g's
          • thought the main reason for using lifting bodies to to have greater crosstrack.

            The word is "cross-range", and yes, winged vehicles excel at this.

            The deceleration from a capsule landing should be in the same direction as the acceleration during launch.... but for a lifting body the directions are different... which, to me, implies more problems with reverse g's for lifting bodies.

            You might want to think about that again. In a capsule, you are going upward during ascent and downward during descent. During bo
            • The word is "cross-range", and yes, winged vehicles excel at this.

              Don't be an ass, cross-range means the same thing as cross-track. Where I work we usually refer to it as cross-track because we also refer to along-track and out-of-plane. And yes, I do this stuff for a living.

              Anway range usually means distance from the barycentre or from a tracking station. And cross-range could technically be any direction in the plane of sky.... cross-track is more specific if you think about it that way.

              You might want
    • 1. This news is older than the hills.

      I heard news of ESA asking a a few million Euros for a study concerning kliper/clipper/whatever the spelling of the day is, but it was multiple weeks ago IIRC. I checked the article, but I found nothing new.. So why they publish it now is a mystery to me, there must be some reason though, maybe there was a press conference?
    • The big problem with the Soviet lunar program wasn't their crew vehicle - it was the N1 [astronautix.com] booster. The N1 was a humiliatingly bad piece of junk: four launches, four catastrophic failures. Heck, they even messed up when christening the first booster - they broke the bottle of champaign over the crawler instead of the rocket ;)

      Now, Buran's energia booster had the payload capacity for a lunar launch in its heaviest configuration. However, they'd have to bring the program back from the dead; there's not too mu
      • The big problem with the Soviet lunar program wasn't their crew vehicle - it was the N1 booster.

        Indeed. That was kind of my point about the "Moon Rocket" blowing up on the pad. :-)

        Thank God they gave some other engineer a chance when they went to build the Energia. Otherwise half their crap never would have gotten off the ground. (Punctuated by the fact that half the crap that did get off the ground never got where it was going. Polyus [wikipedia.org] anyone?)

        Buran's energia booster had the payload capacity for a lunar l
    • by slavemowgli (585321) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @03:36PM (#13669397) Homepage

      Did they get close? Maybe.

      They did more than "maybe" "get close" - the first probe ever to actually reach the moon was Russian (Luna 2), for example. The Russians may not actually have sent people to the moon, but they certainly have accomplished some things, too, so give credit where credit is due.

      • They did more than "maybe" "get close" - the first probe ever to actually reach the moon was Russian (Luna 2), for example. The Russians may not actually have sent people to the moon, but they certainly have accomplished some things, too, so give credit where credit is due.

        Both the Soviets and the Americans accomplished a lot of rocketry work in that era.

        But do either of them still retain the specific expertise and practical experience to do a lot? I've always sort of gotten the impression that in a lot of

    • Let's be clear, Clipper won't be of much use to rescue people actually on the Moon, since it won't have the capability to land on the lunar surface.

      That said, there's orbiting the Moon and then there's obiting the Moon.

      First, you can follow an elongated orbital path around Earth that just happens to get close enough to the Moon that it's gravity alters your path and swings you around the backside of the Moon and then towards Earth. That's the path followed by Apollo 8. The vehicle does not actually enter
    • Why (Score:3, Interesting)

      by StarKruzr (74642)
      can't we just drop our own manned space vehicle plans and collaborate with Europe and the Russians on this thing? It's an elegant, simple design, gets the job done and is eminently reusable (what's with the "10-reuse capsule" thing?). It's even kinda pretty.

      I'm sure the answer has something to do with feeding business to Boeing, Grumman, Lockheed, etc., but there's no reason those companies couldn't contribute to the development of a United Nations Space Administration (!) group-effort manned spacecraft.

      A
      • Look at what happens when one OS (windows) gets the majority of a market. ANY issues with it becomes a problem. Likewise, we have the Shuttle pushed by Nixon's ppl. We are now grounded with only the russians being a friendly country that can get a crew up there. Instead, if we have develop a system and they develop one, if any issues arise, then we can use each others (disregarding the issue of price).
  • by Frac (27516) * on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @02:26PM (#13668815)
    "The Clipper is essentially a "people carrier" designed to transport astronauts, said Alan Thirkettle, head of the Esa's Human Spaceflight Development Department."

    Not to be confused with The Clippy (TM), which "is essentially a "people harasser" designed to deliver inane suggestions. ;)
  • by TheReckoning (638253) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @02:34PM (#13668882) Journal
    Original article here [slashdot.org].
  • by deathcloset (626704) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @02:35PM (#13668893) Journal
    with russia involved with the rest of europe, now what's keeping them from researching a nuclear [wikipedia.org] rocket? [wikipedia.org]

    It just seems like a great use of nuclear ability. I mean, space, nuclear reactions, the two just go so well together, like peanut butter and...and whatever else goes really well with peanut butter.

    Is it still just public opinion about nuclear power? Because that's dumb.
  • by Fox_1 (128616) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @02:38PM (#13668923)
    This kind of thing is really interesting. Without the Russian space program honestly the ISS project would be dead right now. The American space program has had far more money invested in it, and while arguably more success, the success per dollar ratio may not be as good as the Russians. The real kicker is that the Russian space program has been mostly funded by the West (US & Allies) during the past decade while it has been really taking off. One area that may explain the differences in success are management and design philosophies. By being forced to operate on stricter budgets the Russians have relied on simplier designs and technologies. In effect they never had the opportunity to let a project BLOAT out of control. It's a good thing that the Russian program is recieving this investment and that this vehicle is being developed. It's likely that it will happen, unlike the myriad of plans that have come from the NASA side of the world. One can only hope that the US private industry picks up the reins from their government and keeps the US competitive with the Russians in the future space industry.
    • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @02:51PM (#13669039)
      Without the Russian space program honestly the ISS project would be dead right now.

      Without either the US or the Russian space program honestly the ISS project would be dead right now.

      I think that's why they called it the "International" Space Station.

      • There is a fair chance the Russians would have either kept patching together the MIR or they would have done MIR 2 without the U.S. MIR was well past its prime but the Russians sure didn't want to deorbit it. They were forced to as condition for joining ISS. It takes enormous time, money and effort to get stuff in to space. Throwing away stuff that still worked was stupid.

        MIR 2 would have been a challenge for the Russinas from a funding perspective a few years ago but thanks to soaring oil and natural g
      • Riiight. The US had LOTS of space stations up and running for a really long time. I mean lets have a look:

        Russian:

        Salyut1 : 175 Days in orbit
        Salyut3 : 213 Days in orbit
        Salyut 4: 770 Days in orbit
        Salyut 5: 412 Days in Orbit
        Salyut 6: 1,764 Days in orbit
        Salyut 7: 3,216 Days in orbit
        Mir: 5,511 Days in orbit

        US:

        Skylab: 2,249 Days in orbit

        I can see how Russia would really need the US's help.

        • That's 171 occupied days in orbit for Skylab. I'm not sure about the Russian occupation numbers, but I don't think it really matters for your point.
                  -aiabx
    • The real kicker is that the Russian space program has been mostly funded by the West (US & Allies) during the past decade while it has been really taking off.

      You do realise that the US has been legally prevented from doing this very funding for 5 years due to the Iran Nonpoliferation Act of 2000, yet they have been launching US astronauts and resupplying the ISS for the past 2 and a half years for no funding. Indeed the Russian Space Station recently had its funding from the Russian government incr

  • A Few Comments (Score:4, Interesting)

    by everphilski (877346) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @02:42PM (#13668955) Journal
    1. Russia already has it engineered. Plans are made, mockups are built. Some test pieces are already constructed.
    2. The vehicle will be launch on top of a Russian launch vehicle.
    3. The vehicle will be launched from a Russian facility.
    Therefore...
    4. All Russia is just looking for capital to build. They know the US can't give them money due to the non-proliferation act (with exception, possibly, for a few soyuz flights with the condition that they support Space Station).

    My angle? I hate the fact that people keep trumpeteering that "The ESA is so much better than NASA" "The ESA this" "The ESA that" ... the ESA didn't do shit for Clipper (formerly Klipper when it was an exclusively Russian project) other than potentially help fund it.

    -everphilski-
    • Which Vehicle? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by amightywind (691887)

      2. The vehicle will be launch on top of a Russian launch vehicle.

      Which vehicle? I doubt if a proton is reliable enough. Since this is larger and heavier than the Soyuz it does not seem that there is a rocket in the Russian inventory that can orbit it, much less send it to the moon.

  • by TheReckoning (638253) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @02:46PM (#13668997) Journal
    It's looking like there should be quite a bit of competition soon in human orbital spaceflight. Here are the
    various competitors I can think of off-hand:
     
    * USA: Shuttle-derived system [wikipedia.org], probably with a CEV capsule on top. There's several downsides to a shuttle-derived system, but it keeps the constituencies happy and should have enough government momentum to keep on going.
     
    * Russia and Europe: Kliper's [wikipedia.org] been searching around for financial support for a while, and it looks like they finally got at least -some- funding from Europe.
     
    * China: various iterations of Shenzhou spacecraft [wikipedia.org]
     
    In the private sector:
     
    * t/Space: The (Rutan-affiliated?) company just completed a parachute drop test [wired.com] and water landing of a full-scale model of their proposed CXV space capsule. It's uncertain if they'll get more funding from NASA, but their concept seems sound and may get private investment. Oh, and their web page has some really spiffy videos [nyud.net].
     
    * SpaceX: They've already announced their intent to compete for Bigelow's
    orbital prize, and their upcoming man-rated Falcon V will be large enough to carry a Gemini-style capsule.
     
    Now what about destinations? Besides the ISS, we've got Robert Bigelow's inflatable space station modules [wikipedia.org], which should be up and operational by 2010, with several prototype launches before then. He's planning on selling these modules to various groups and countries, so hopefully we'll have several different space stations up there.
     
    Between Shenzhou 8 and 9 China is planning on launching a small orbital laboratory, which Shenzhou 9 will be docking with. Various members of the Chinese space program have also been visiting [aviationnow.com] Bigelow's facility, so perhaps we'll see them doing something with his modules.
     
    The future should be interesting.
  • 15 Freakin' Years? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by windowpain (211052) on Wednesday September 28, 2005 @03:03PM (#13669136) Journal
    Can anybody tell me why they're not going to put a human crew in this thing until 2020? Almost half a century after the first manned flights it's going to take 15 years to develop this thing?

    Or is there something else going on here I didn't spot?
    • It's really quite simple. It's because the Chinese want to put a person on the moon. And the Europeans do. And the Indians do. And we do. But rather than collaborating and sending 7 or 8 different nationalities in one ship, we're each going to redesign the damn wheel, and spend billions of dollars in a new space race because no one country will play nice in the sandbox with the other countries. As an additional rant, screw the ships. Invest the money into technology that doesn't require us to use an
      • by bjomo (832719)
        What happened to a space elevator by 2015? We still need lots of technological advancements to be able to build a space elevator. The ribbon cable material(carbon nanotubes top the list) needs to be manufacturable in lengths of 100,000 km with a very high tensile strength. The power beaming technology proposed to power the "climbers" also needs to be developed further.
      • But rather than collaborating and sending 7 or 8 different nationalities in one ship, we're each going to redesign the damn wheel, and spend billions of dollars in a new space race because no one country will play nice in the sandbox with the other countries.

        Personally, I have no problem with most of the major powers in the world having the capability to do moonshots or more. I'd much prefer that over a single project which any one of them could veto or otherwise hamstring by whim or incompetence. The mo

      • I am really glad there are 8 different teams working on it. scientists collaborating with 8 different languages and ideas on what should be done will ensure the failure of a mediocre project.

        This is part of the reason the ISS sucks so much, since the US and Russia couldn't agree on what orbit to put it in, it ended up in a bad for both orbit. Dogshed discussions are bad enough in software teams, imagine if one's national pride were riding on the issue.

        competition is what drove the space race in the first pl
    • It doesn't have anything to do with country's "playing nice". It's just a matter of national pride to use your own equipment to put your people into space. Rather, it has to do with the fact that we aren't just ordering another space vehicle from the humming production line. We are building from scratch with all new materials/designs/engineers. I mean it even takes months to get another space shuttle ready for orbit again; much less build the whole thing. I'm all in favor of a total overhaul.

      The real pro
  • The more organizations of any sort going into space, the happier I am. I hope it goes well.
  • I blogged this back at the end of 2004 [babilim.co.uk] when the Russians first rolled the Kliper mockup out. This recent BBC story does seem really weirdly timed. I figured something "new" must have happened but I can't seem to find anything. Someone had a press conference perhaps?

    Al.
  • That's a terribly long development timeline given what we already know about the science and engineering. 15 years seems like a painfully long time given other space programs, potentially China, Japan, even India that this effort could work with down the road or compete with.

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