Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space Businesses

First Look At New Mexico's Space Terminal 131

Posted by kdawson
from the ad-astra dept.
Raver32 sends us to space.com for first light on the design of New Mexico's Spaceport America. Quoting: "The winning design is the work of URS Corporation — a large design and engineering enterprise — teamed with Foster + Partners of the United Kingdom, a group with extensive experience in crafting airport buildings. When the 100,000 square-foot facility is completed — the centerpiece of the world's first, purpose-built, commercial spaceport — the structures will serve as the primary operating base for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic suborbital spaceliner, and also as the headquarters for the New Mexico Spaceport Authority."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

First Look At New Mexico's Space Terminal

Comments Filter:
  • ha! (Score:2, Funny)

    Spaceports instead of airports?! Where the hell is my flying car?! It's the 21st Century for God sake! I was promised flying cars!
    • by StCredZero (169093) on Wednesday September 05, 2007 @01:30AM (#20475175)
      There are several things we could be doing to dramatically lower launch costs.

      • Two Stage To Orbit [spacetethers.com] - If done correctly, we can build one of these to operate like an airplane, instead of a munition. (See The Rocket Company [hobbyspace.com] for details. Single Stage To Orbit (SSTO) is right at the bleeding edge of our capabilities. But if we're willing to build big and build robustly, TSTO is doable with off-the shelf technology. (The fuel to get into space is not that much more expensive than the fuel to get a 747 over the Atlantic.)
      • Modular Laser Launch [google.com] - You can develop a laser module to launch a small unmanned test vehicle, then scale it up to launch useful payloads (5000 lbs) by building and combining multiple modules. When economies of scale kick in, you get launch costs that start to rival those hypothetical beanstalks.
      • Rotovators that rendevous with a High Altitude Airplane [wikipedia.org] - Again, it's hard to imagine a robust and reliable SSTO, but a Mach 12 high-altitude aircraft is much more reasonable. Also, a rotating tether that reaches only partly into the atmosphere and cancels only about half of orbital velocity can be built from materials that exist today! (Not unobtanium or carbon nanotubes.)
      • A Lofstrom Loop [wikipedia.org] - would also enable cheap access to space, and could be built with materials we have today. This is an arc that reaches above the atmosphere, suspended by the momentum of electromagnetically accelerated iron links. Vehicles would be launched into orbit by "stealing" a bit of the loop's momentum.


      If we were really serious about lowering launch costs, we would be pouring money into researching these. But we're not. (Too easy to make money off the government doing what we're doing now.)
      • by MobyDisk (75490)
        Those are some awesome links.

        I'm reading a PDF about Modular Laser Launch [usra.edu] and I'm realizing nobody will ever fund this. However! If you had a tracking system that could follow a pinpoint location on a launch vehicle, and a 100MW laser that could continuously fire, then you could take down an incoming ICBM. It seems like this is the way to get this project started. Tell the DOD that the same device that can launch things into space can also destroy them.
      • What about 11km high launch towers with electromagnetic rails on the inside, powered by nuclear power plants?

        • Even if an 11km-high tower were feasible (given that it would be 20 times the tallest tower ever built) and sufficient (given that reaching escape velocity within 11km would require a steel-crushing, organ-liquefying 560 Gs of acceleration), there's still the fact that you'd end up traveling at orbital velocity at an altitude where the air still has fully 1/5 of its sea-level density. Result: fireball.
          • First of all, think pylons, not towers as in skyscrapers. This I assure you is technically feasible. Second, 11km puts you above most of the drag of the lower atmosphere (although I'll grant you it is only a few %), and crucially, above high winds and storms. Thirdly you don't need to reach escape velocity, just orbital. From there you can do what you like.

            If you can make orbital velocity, even low orbit easy and cheap to reach, its orders of magnitude more easy to reach escape velocity from there. If

          • 11 km towers are well established as feasible with conventional construction techniques. (It would be damned expensive, however!)

            If we can manage atmospheric friction during hypersonic re-entry, then we can manage it during launch as well. Since we are partially freed from the tyranny of the Rocket Equation, we could afford the additional mass to do something like carry along some water to evaporatively cool the launch vehicle while it was blazing through the remaining 1/5th of the atmosphere.

            Pratt &
        • Unfortunately, 11km is far too short an acceleration distance for anything but unmanned cargoes. (Think of how far downrange the Shuttle gets, accelerating all the while. You'd need a structure with length on that scale!) Also, getting altitude is only a small part of the problem. It's getting up to orbital velocity which is the big sticking point.

          That reminds me of another one. Apparently, some NASA researcher has determined that we could create super-strong cylindrical columns using Boron balloon tan
          • Unfortunately, 11km is far too short an acceleration distance for anything but unmanned cargoes. (Think of how far downrange the Shuttle gets, accelerating all the while. You'd need a structure with length on that scale!) Also, getting altitude is only a small part of the problem. It's getting up to orbital velocity which is the big sticking point.

            I had this discussion with a few people before, apparently you can reach orbital velocity with reasonable Gs within such a structure, which would need no spac

            • Well, if we use x = 1/2 at^2, and plug in 9*9.8 (m/s^2) (nine gravities) and 11,000 meters, we get t^2 = 249.43 (s^2). Take the square root, and you get 15.79 seconds. If you accelerate at 9 G's for that long, you only get to about 1393 (m/s). (Little over Mach 4.) Orbital velocity is something like 6900 meters per second. And 9 G's is pretty damn high for passengers. Most of them would black out, and you probably couldn't take elderly and infirm passengers without liability insurance problems.

              What d
              • Ha, yes, I dug out me old post on it! Here is the tower launch archive [yarchive.net], from a few years back, which I was pointed to by Carlton Meyer, the guy responsible for the skyramp website. He and I were thinking along the same lines - how hard would it be to build a mountain to reach space? Obviously not literally, but you get the idea. Once you are past the 11km mark, you jump out of the troposphere [gatech.edu]. I'll quote one of the responses to my long ago post here:

                I also went ahead and did some quick math. 1 m/s/s acce
                • That's too cool! If you built your launch tower to give significant lateral velocity, then so much the better. In fact, it may be possible to design the trajectory so that you can skim off the top of the atmosphere and aerobrake any excess velocity. (You'll need some thermal protection for the craft anyhow, as it will be blazing through the atmosphere at only 35,000 feet at Mach 3.) Then all you're left with is a small burn for circularizing your orbit.

                  Unfortunately, you are probably leaving out a big
                  • Unfortunately, you are probably leaving out a big chunk of energy for losses due to air friction. This is why rockets need something like 8600 m/s delta-v to get to LEO, while orbital velocity is actually a bit less than that. Still, a rocket firing as a velocity sustainer through the atmosphere is a lot easier than trying to get it going that fast from a standstill in one stage.

                    Well friction can be somewhat mitigated by designing the vehicle to be as low friction as possible. Current designs need to ca

      • Too easy to make money off the government doing what we're doing now.

        Nice theory. Somewhat at odds with the facts however - that only about 20% or less of US launches are goverment sponsored. The remainder are commercial.

        If we were really serious about lowering launch costs, we would be pouring money into researching these.

        That's the rub - we don't need any new technologies to lower launch costs. We could cut them by half or more simply by using existing vehicles but mass producing them

        • The developers of launch technologies were (until recently) doing so almost solely at the behest of the government. And demand for space access is strongly shaped by the economics of the current launch vehicles. It's a classic chicken and egg problem.

          I think there's demand that's invisible simply because the capability isn't there. I think that if companies could launch 5,000 pound communications platforms for only 5 million dollars, you'd have things like ubiquitous and cheap LEO satellite broadband. T
          • The developers of launch technologies were (until recently) doing so almost solely at the behest of the government.

            Sure - if you define "until recently" as "until the early 1970's". What you repeat is a prevalent meme in the space fanboi community - the problem is, it isn't true. Now, it *is* true that development since then is strongly derived from what went before - but they weren't designed to goverment specifications per se.

            And demand for space access is strongly shaped by the economi

            • What you are saying is that those birds cost that much precisely because it's so difficult to launch them. So you have to amortize the large launch cost over as long an operational period as possible in an extreme environment. If launch costs were much lower, then you could make satellites much cheaper. You could launch more of them to achieve redundancy. And you have a much more affordable fall-back position of just launching another one. Also, economies of scale will start to kick in.

              And I thought wh
              • What you are saying is that those birds cost that much precisely because it's so difficult to launch them. So you have to amortize the large launch cost over as long an operational period as possible in an extreme environment. If launch costs were much lower, then you could make satellites much cheaper.

                Absolutely incorrect.

                Even if launch costs were zero, the costs (I.E. lost revenue) of losing a bird are still quite large and the enviroment still as harsh. I.E. high reliability is still an ironcl

                • Uh, you're conflating two statements of mine. One was about 2 hour delivery around the world. If current delivery was proof of demand, then you have an analogous situation today. So by your own statement, there's proven demand there. My second statement was about the costs of the satellites. The reliability requirements are no longer ironclad. If you can have a cheap commodity backup already in place, then you do not need it! (Example: Google servers.)

                  For your example of undersea cables, you need to
                  • Uh, you're conflating two statements of mine. One was about 2 hour delivery around the world. If current delivery was proof of demand, then you have an analogous situation today. So by your own statement, there's proven demand there.

                    Sure there's a proven demand - but space acess prices would have to shrink to a degree well beyond even those most fevered dreams of the average space advocate to become even remotely possible. Thus the FedEx precedent is irrelevant, because he used existing markets and existi

                    • So, if a service is being implemented as multiple redundant birds, why does *this* require ironclad reliability? Again, your logic is circular. If there are redundant multiple sats, then the loss of any one or two should *not* constitute a loss of service.

                      About 'hard' circuits and economies of scale - again your logic is circular. The demand is not high. But once you have the capability of launching multiple cheap sats, it will be.

                      (And you completely miss my point about Google. That was only an example
                    • by DeadChobi (740395)
                      Space is a far harsher place than the air-conditioned, computer-controlled server room. There's radiation, heat, meteorites, et. al, to worry about let alone malfunctions within the equipment itself. If google has a heat problem, it cranks up the AC. If a satellite provider has a problem with heat, their equipment fries because they have no control over the environment. The equipment has to be built robustly because of the unpredictability of space. Otherwise companies would use the cheapest shit they could
            • And note that I said "launch technologies" not "launch vehicles." We may be flying newer improved birds, but we are still doing things like we did in the 1970s. And as you point out we are not even doing the best we can at it. The record shows that doing it the way we are doing it now is not going to catalyze growth in space. I suspect that it has to be a new way, otherwise the price point will remain too high for things to get started.
              • And note that I said "launch technologies" not "launch vehicles." We may be flying newer improved birds, but we are still doing things like we did in the 1970s.

                Well, I'll simply repeat what I said earlier, possibly it will sink in this time: The problem isn't technology. Period. Full stop.

                The record shows that doing it the way we are doing it now is not going to catalyze growth in space.

                Correct. But the problem with what we are doing now has nothing to do with the technologies used. P

                • "The problem isn't technology" only from the point of view of certain components we already have. However, a lot of engineering needs to be done to get entirely new types of launch up and running. We know that TSTO can work. Lots of engineering needs to be done to actually get it to work. Once we are there, people will become aware the economic rules for space launch they were playing by no longer apply.

                  You're right that technology is really not "the problem." Economics is. But until the technological
                  • "The problem isn't technology" only from the point of view of certain components we already have. However, a lot of engineering needs to be done to get entirely new types of launch up and running.

                    We don't need new types of launch vehicles either. The current high costs are driven by managerial issues and inertia - not technology.

                    But until the technological tools that can change the rules are proven, people will keep playing by the old economic rules.

                    What minimal technology changes are nee

                    • New technologies enable new ways of doing things. TSTO enables us to think of launch vehicles as *vehicles* and not munitions.

                      Also, I agree with you that we don't need new technologies. I have also seen proposals to simply use the current launch techniques, but with economies of scale and better management. Unfortunately, I don't think this gets us far enough. We also agree that the decrease in cost is currently not enough to spur anyone to pursue it. And again, we agree that the way we're doing things
  • Anybody else (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sirknz (955428)
    Get the mental image of it looking like a run down backwater airport in about 20 years time?
    • by ashitaka (27544) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @10:52PM (#20473837) Homepage
      Dibs on being the first to say:

      "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious."
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by sjf (3790)
        Am I the only one who thinks that the spaceport looks like the Millenium Falcon ?
        • Offtopic? You got screwed.
          Since the story amounts to "LOOK! PICTURES!" you're about as on-topic as you could possibly get.

          And yes, the Millennium Falcon was my first thought.
          It looks so much like it, in fact, that you just might deserve a -1 Redundant...
        • I was thinking it look more like a vagina. "Welcome to the womb."
        • by stungod (137601)
          You might be. The first thing I thought of was vagina, followed closely by toilet seat. Once you get past that, it's just an airport.
        • by Gilmoure (18428)
          Looks like a soggy nacho to me. /NM resident here
    • Re:Anybody else (Score:4, Informative)

      by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @11:14PM (#20473995) Homepage Journal

      ...a run down backwater airport in about 20 years time?
      Maybe. There is going to be plenty of competition. From Seed magazine:

      New Mexico isn't the only state with atmospheric ambitions. In March the Wisconsin legislature voted for a $15-million spaceport in Sheboygan. Oklahoma is converting a former B-52 base into a launch site for things like rocket-powered Learjets. Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos is quietly building mission control for his space company, Blue Origin, on his West Texas ranch, while Virginia-based Space Adventures plans two enormous facilities in the United Arab Emirates and Singapore. Spaceports in Florida, Virginia, Nevada and Alabama are also in the pipeline.
      And as happens when growing industries begin to mature, there is a winnowing process in which only the most fit survive. Since they are the closest one to me, I do hope they make it.
      • Wisconsin? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by NotQuiteReal (608241)
        Isn't farther south better? Equatorial ideal, for launching spacecraft?

        Of course if you don't plan on achieving orbit maybe it doesn't matter.

        IANARS

      • by Gkyluig (1107759)
        The fact that New Mexico's Spaceport America needs hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds does not bode well for its competitiveness in the market. I've actually been down to the sight, and I'm excited about it, but as a taxpayer in New Mexico I'm not too happy about having to pay for it while not getting a spaceflight myself.
    • by mcrbids (148650)
      Actually, my mental image is like much of Mexico - partially done. It's something I've seen lots of in Mexico, but just don't see here in the states - buildings and structures stopped halfway. It's weird to see nice, quality brick houses and the like built up about halfway and then just... abandoned!

      So, I figure the tarmac would be all laid out, the foundation for the buildings poured, and then whatever mysterious forces cause projects to die halfway would kick in and we'd have another open wound in the Ear
      • by McFadden (809368)
        Given the amount it's likely to be used, I can't understand the size of the place. Just how many people do they expect to be queueing at the check-in desk brandishing their $200,000 tickets?

        Presumably, the vastness is to allow the entire roster of passengers plus crew for a single day to play a little 5-a-side soccer before they take off. Providing they can find a couple of janitors to make up the numbers.
        • Richard Branson was interviewed by Neil Cavuto on Fox and he asked him that question and Richard said that 40,000 people have paid something down towards a deposit (could be as little as a few hundred dollars or maybe a few thousand...he didn't say) and that there were several hundred fully paid reservations already ($200,000 paid in full that is). Richard also said that his parents are going with him on the inaugural flight (he may have said that his mother wasn't going to go, but I don't remember).
      • Is one of our fifty missing? This is New Mexico.
      • by AGMW (594303)
        Actually, my mental image is like much of Mexico - partially done. It's something I've seen lots of in Mexico, but just don't see here in the states - buildings and structures stopped halfway.

        You see the same sort of thing in Spain too. A single storey [thefreedictionary.com] building with the rebar [wikipedia.org] poking out the top where the concrete supports would be for the second storey.

        I believe in Spain there's some tax loophole where you don't have to pay something if the building isn't completed. Is it local/council taxes/rates perha

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @10:07PM (#20473435)

    Can they get a killer whale to the moon?

  • I initially read the headline as "First Look at Mexico's New Space Terminal" and I immediately thought of the South Park episode where they send the whale to the moon. God, what a great episode. /Si, fly.
    • by asm2750 (1124425)
      We're whalers on the moon, We carry a harpoon. But there ain't no whales So we tell tall tales And sing our whaling tune.
  • I think not... (Score:1, Informative)

    by djupedal (584558)
    "...the centerpiece of the world's first, purpose-built, commercial spaceport"

    I take it whomever spit out that little piece of wishful marketing spin never visited the 'Nazca Lines' [crystalinks.com] on the Plains de' Peru, eh, Bunky?
    • by p0tat03 (985078)
      How did that get modded informative? Are the mods subscribing to unsubstantiated low-budget conspiracy theory shows now? The Nazca Lines are important archaeologically, but there's nothing to suggest that they are of extraterrestrial origin, or that it was involved with spacecraft at all.
    • by hador_nyc (903322)
      um are you saying that Nazca was a spaceport? Riiiight, keep watching your X-Files re-runs!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Pffffft. You're a crackpot. The Nazca Lines wasn't a commercial spaceport, it was run by a not for profit collective.
    • Put down the bong and close your copy of "Chariots of the Gods". It is not a work of reputable archeology.
  • "What a piece of junk!"

    "She made not look like much, kid, but she's got it where it counts. I made a lot of special modifications myself, but if you don't mind, we're in a bit of a hurrry, so..."
  • When did that happen? Well, I guess since they have Roswell, it makes sense.
  • by daemonenwind (178848) on Tuesday September 04, 2007 @10:48PM (#20473791)
    ...the planned gardens around the disk-like space terminal will be exquisite, keeping dozens of local workers employed on a daily basis.

    (yeah, I know I'm going to hell for that one)

  • Is it achieving real space flight?

    Trying to get the russian share of billionaires wanting to go to space.
  • You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.
  • Did anyone else read that as Mexico's New Space Terminal?

    I guess we're not sending chihuahuas and tacos into space quite yet.
    • Yeah, until I looked at the pictures, I thought it was about a new terminal in space, not a terminal-to-space in Mexico. Pleh
  • the first ever lost space luggage arrived at the facility today.
  • I wonder if I can trade in some Cardassian Yamak sauce for a space flight, say 45 kilograms of it for a one way ticket to space? It's high in sugar content though. (I think they are coming out with the sugar-free version though. Perhaps that will be worth more.)
  • GOLDEN, Colorado -- Architectural and engineering teams have begun shaping the look and feel of New Mexico's Spaceport America, taking the wraps off new images today that showcase the curb appeal of the sprawling main terminal and hangar at the futuristic facility.

    What does this have to do with Golden? Granted, the Colorado School of Mines has the Center for Space Resources [mines.edu] - but the article doesn't reference them or say anything about their involvement in the project. Does anyone know?

    • Bylines often reflect where the writer of the article was actually located, so it's probably telling us that Leonard David, author of TFA, wrote aforementioned FA in Golden.
  • The interior shot [akamaitech.net] of the spaceport reminds me of a Jim Burns painting [velero25.net].
    • by rengav (456846)
      Isn't that the cover art for a David Brin book? I know I've seen that shot somewhere as a book cover.
      • I know it from the book Mechanismo by Harry Harrison. Could be it was also used as the cover for a book though.
  • that plane has completely missed the runway.
  • Am I the only one who noticed that this looks like a toliet seat or bed pan ?
  • Is the spaceport inside the giant steel vagina? [akamaitech.net]
    • I suppose that's the architectural equivalent of a chastity belt, to keep hostile aliens from penetrating our planet's defenses.
  • The New Mexico Spaceport will be called 'Mos Eisely'
    • Actually, we already have that. When you drive over the top of San Augustine pass and look down on the White Sands Missile Range [army.mil] HQ area, it looks remarkably like Mos Eisely as seen in Episode IV. Maybe if I have time someday, I'll take a picture and post it along with a screen capture side-by-side on Google Earth.
  • Finally I've got a place to park the Millenium Falcon when I need to run out to Toshii station and pick up power converters.

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

Working...