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Space The Military Science

The Story of Baikonur, Russia's Space City 237

Posted by Zonk
from the you're-the-rocket-man dept.
eldavojohn writes "There's an article up on Physorg about Russian space launch city Baikonur, rented by Russia from Kazakhstan. Although it is essentially the same as it was in the 60's and 70's, it is amazingly efficient and still operational. 'Even the technology hasn't changed much. The Soyuz spacecraft designed in the mid-1960s is still in service, somewhat modified. It can only be used once, but costs just $25 million. The newest Endeavor space shuttle cost $2 billion, but is reusable. Life and work in Baikonur and its cosmodrome are also pretty much what they were in the Soviet era. The town of 70,000 - unbearably hot in summer, freezing cold in winter and dusty year round - is isolated by hundreds of miles of scrubland.'" We last discussed Baikonur back in 2005.
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The Story of Baikonur, Russia's Space City

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  • Costs (Score:5, Informative)

    by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Sunday October 21, 2007 @08:05PM (#21067545) Homepage Journal
    This Nasa space shuttle faq [nasa.gov] lists endeavour's cost at 1.7 billion. Maybe they just rounded off, but a third of a billion seems significant to me.

    It also lists the launch costs for a shuttle at about $450 million. I don't know if that's just the launch itself or if that includes the turn around costs. Of course - the article doesn't list similar numbers for the Soyuz - but it seems that while reusable - the shuttle still is exponentially more expensive. Although - I don't know of anything else that can get as much weight to orbit as the shuttle.
  • Re:Costs (Score:5, Informative)

    by slashqwerty (1099091) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @08:54PM (#21067821)
    I don't know of anything else that can get as much weight to orbit as the shuttle.

    At 21,000 kg to LEO, the Ariane 5 ECA [wikipedia.org] comes pretty close. And it does a lot better than the shuttle [wikipedia.org] to Geostationary Transfer Orbit. The Delta IV [wikipedia.org] does slightly better than the shuttle at 25,800kg to LEO versus the shuttle's 24,400kg.

    The Saturn V [wikipedia.org] could put them all to shame. Although the planned Ares V [wikipedia.org] can carry even more than the Saturn V.

  • Re:Costs (Score:3, Informative)

    by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @09:34PM (#21068039)
    The shuttle can carry up to 24,400 kg to low earth orbit, that is substantially more then the Soyuz can carry.

    ...is an understatement. Current Soyuz payload is 880kg.
  • by ChemE (1070458) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @09:35PM (#21068045) Homepage
    One thing not mentioned in the article (but is mentioned in the 2005 article) is the problems between the Kazakh and Russian governments.They are still debating over problems (especially money) due to failed rocket launches, most recently in September. The Kazakh government keeps suspending and then unsuspending Russian operations at the base.

    See this article from EurasiaNet: http://eurasianet.org/resource/kazakhstan/hypermail/news/0011.shtml [eurasianet.org]
  • by CharlieG (34950) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @09:45PM (#21068105) Homepage
    Remember the MAIN design goal of the shuttle wasn't JUST to bring "stuff" to orbit, but to be able to bring sats DOWN from orbit - in fact, part of the design criteria was launch from Vandenburg, grab a sat, and LAND in ONE orbit (Military wanted to be able to snach Sats)

    They did bring 2 or 3 Sats down from orbit in the early days
  • by glitchvern (468940) on Sunday October 21, 2007 @10:19PM (#21068285) Homepage

    For example, by the time the shuttle engines are on the launch pad, they've been rebuilt pretty much from scratch and retested, which takes up almost 90% of their rated lifetime.
    Is this still true? I know at the beginning of the shuttle program this was true, but that was about 5 major space shuttle main engine versions ago. Phase II engines first flew September 29, 1988 (STS-26 first post Challenger flight); Block 1 engines first flew July 13, 1995 (STS-70); Block IIa engines first flew January 22, 1998 (STS-89); Block II engines, which yes came after Block IIa engines, first flew July 12 2001 (STS-104) Boeing SSME paper [engineeringatboeing.com]. From 1992 to 2000 Space Shuttle annual operating costs decreased 40% Nasa Fact Sheet [nasa.gov] in part due to decreased SSME maintenance costs. How much does it costs to rebuild a Block II SSME? I can't find any numbers for that anywhere. It should be noted that a Block II SSME is the most reliable rocket engine ever built in large part because it's reuseability allows extensive static fire testing of each engine. The space shuttle may be crap, but a lot of the parts are awesome and SSME is one of them. It'll be a shame we will no longer use them when we discontinue the space shuttle, but attaching expensive reusable engines to an expendable booster really doesn't make a lot of sense.
  • Re:Costs (Score:2, Informative)

    by Daengbo (523424) <daengbo@@@gmail...com> on Sunday October 21, 2007 @11:11PM (#21068559) Homepage Journal
    I wasn't comparing it to the Soyuz: I was comparing it to where we'd be now if we hadn't used it.

    The NASA Chief Administrator Michael Griffin has recently suggested the decision to develop the Space Shuttle and International Space Station was a mistake by saying, "It is now commonly accepted that was not the right path. We are now trying to change the path while doing as little damage as we can."[1] [wikipedia.org]

    and

    While the Shuttle has been a reasonably successful launch vehicle, it has not met the goal of greatly reducing launch costs. There are various ways to measure per-launch costs. One way is dividing the total cost over the life of the program (including buildings, facilities, training, salaries, etc) by the number of launches. This method gives about $1.3 billion per launch[1]. Another method is calculating the incremental (or marginal) cost differential to add or subtract one flight -- just the immediate resources expended/saved involved in that one flight. This is about $55 million. Neither figure is right or wrong; they are simply different ways to examine the picture.

    The total cost of the program has been $145 billion as of early 2005, and is estimated to be $174 billion when the Shuttle retires in 2010. NASA's budget for 2005 allocates 30%, or $5 billion, to Space Shuttle operations.

    Original goals of the Shuttle included operating at a fairly high flight rate (roughly 12 flights per year, at low cost, and with high reliability. Improving in these areas over the previous generation of single-use and unmanned launchers was a motivation. Although it did operate as the world's first reusable crew-carrying spacecraft, it did not greatly improve on those parameters, and is considered by some to have failed in its original purpose.

    Although the final design differs from the original concept, the project was still supposed to meet USAF goals and be much cheaper to fly in general. One reason behind this apparent failure is inflation. During the 1970s the U.S. suffered from severe inflation. Between when the program began in 1972, and first flight in April 1981, inflation increased prices over 200%. When evaluating shuttle development costs in later-year dollars, this superficially appeared to be a large cost overrun in the program. In fact when discounting inflation, the shuttle development program was within the initial cost estimate given to President Richard M. Nixon in 1971.

    The high shuttle operational costs have been much more than anticipated, if counting all associated support resources (total expenditures, including development costs, divided by number of flights). Some of this can be attributed to a lower flight rate, operating beyond the 10-year anticipated lifespan of each Shuttle, and higher than anticipated maintenance costs. The marginal or incremental per launch costs have been about 50% more than early projections.

    Some reasons for higher than expected operational costs can be ascribed to:

    Maintenance of thermal protection tiles turned out to be very labour intensive, averaging about 1 personweek to replace a tile, with hundreds damaged with each launch.

    The main engines were highly complex and maintenance intensive, necessitating removal and extensive inspection after each flight. Before the current "Block II" engines, the turbopumps (a primary engine component) had to be removed, dissembled, and totally overhauled after each flight.

    Launch rate is significantly lower than initially expected. This does not reduce actual operating costs, but if dividing total program costs by number of launches, more launches per year produces a lower per-launch cost figure. Some early hypothetical studies examined 55 launches per year, but the maximum possible launch rate was limited to 24 per year, based on manufacturing capacity of the external tank. Early in the shuttle development, the expected la

  • Re:Costs (Score:5, Informative)

    by XNormal (8617) on Monday October 22, 2007 @01:23AM (#21069239) Homepage
    I think you may be mixing up the Soyuz launcher with the Soyuz spacecraft.

    The launcher can lift 7,800 kg to LEO.
  • Re:Costs (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 22, 2007 @03:55AM (#21069869)
    Its Soviet cousin the N1, had a launch capacity of 75,000 kg. I guess we can't count it as it never successfully launched.
  • Re:Costs (Score:3, Informative)

    by FallOfDay (1053148) on Monday October 22, 2007 @09:25AM (#21071885)
    "Although - I don't know of anything else that can get as much weight to orbit as the shuttle."

    Saturn V lifted 118,000kg to LEO, Ares V will be 130,000kg to LEO. The shuttle is a mere 24,400kg to LEO (discounting the mass of the shuttle orbiter, itself).
    All would've been outperformed by a maximum-configuration Energia-Vulkan @ 175,000kg to LEO. Frankly, nobody's ever come up with anything like a big enough rocket to really put human spaceflight into gear (i.e. Putting supplies & 20-50 people up, at once). You'd be looking in the range in excess of one kiloton to LEO, for this (i.e. Lifting a mass equivalent to twice the ISS, simultaneously). Just for an idea of scale, this would make any rocket about eight times more massive than a Saturn V, using present engine technology.

    As has been pointed out elsewhere, Russian tech is excellent value & often to a higher standard than it's NASA equivalent. Energia-Vulkan would've put Ares V so shame, both on lifting ability &, no doubt, on cost too. A damned shame it was never fully developed, as it would've shown everyone the way forward. The price we pay for finishing off Communism, eh? However, it isn't as though NASA hasn't relied on Russian technology on their own rockets, in the past, either. The RD180 engine design was acquired pretty much straight from Energomash's RD170 & used on an Atlas rocket, just because it had a feedback mechanism to the engine, for unspent fuel, making the engine more efficient; something which NASA engineers hadn't even thought about.
  • by glitchvern (468940) on Monday October 22, 2007 @06:52PM (#21079261) Homepage

    maybe you should consider the safety records of Soyuz vs the shuttle, before making such statements...
    Their safety records are similar. The shuttle has flown 119 times, the initial 4 missions with a crew of 2 all following missions 5-8, only 2 have had 8. The shuttle has had 2 disasters with all hands lost. The soyuz has flown 98 times, has a maximum crew of three and has had 2 disasters with all hands lost. Some people like to point out the last fatal incident for a manned soyuz spacecraft was 1971, but an unmanned soyuz-u launch vehicle did explode as recently as 2002 killing one and injuring seven. Admittedly the soyuz launch vehicle used on manned missions does go through higher quality assurance, but basically the highest success rate your going to get for a launch vehicle is around 98%.

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