Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
NASA Space Technology

NASA Ares Rocket Specs to Be Open Source 116

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the so-we-can-all-see-what-we-can't-afford-to-build dept.
Bruce writes "As a step toward returning to the moon, NASA announced last week that Boeing will be the lead contractor for the Ares I rocket. Interestingly, Popular Mechanics reports that the system's specifications will be 'open-source and non-proprietary' to encourage competition on future contracts."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NASA Ares Rocket Specs to Be Open Source

Comments Filter:
  • by frith01 (1118539) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @05:06PM (#21756400)
    This is the Bush Administration we are talking about. If they wont ship an AMD cpu to Iran, would they really provide inter/intra-orbital software code to be open source ? (Think ICBM)
  • In theory.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by olddotter (638430) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @05:11PM (#21756462) Homepage
    In theory anything developed with public funds is supposed to go into the public domain. But that seems to have died even faster than the Bill of Rights.
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @05:12PM (#21756472)
    For mass-produced products, which is what we'd like rockets to become, the cost of the design the parts is relatively minor. So giving away the design does give away that much. Instead, it's the design of the manufacturing systems that determines how cheap and reliably we can make the thing. Cars are cheap because they have almost no labor (most cars take less than 40 labor-hours to build). And what make a Pentium so valuable is not the design layout of the transistors, but the $1 billion fab that can reliably etch all those transistors on a wafer of silicon.

    More than a new rocket design, we need a new rocket manufacturing technology that cranks out high quality rockets for very little per each additional rocket.
  • by Penguinisto (415985) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @05:38PM (#21756870) Journal

    This is the Bush Administration we are talking about. If they wont ship an AMD cpu to Iran, would they really provide inter/intra-orbital software code to be open source ? (Think ICBM)

    ["bubble-headed total agreement mode" on]
    ...because, you know, everyone and their dog can get hold of the requisite titanium, rocket fuel, high-precision valves, thermal shielding, Internal Nav Units, and electronics required... You know, all the stuff that makes a delicate and complex-all-to-hell vehicle like, you know, a rocket... fly just fine without exploding in mid-air, or, like, simply catching fire on the launch pad. All we need are, like, you know, these here plans and some duct tape, you know?
    [BHTAM off]

    Cripes - let's stretch things a bit more to turn promising international cooperation into yet another simple-minded Bush-hating screed, shall we? For once... for once in a great-assed while, the gov (no matter which party) does something right, and you gotta go and hose it up with some purile "OMGz0rs DA BOOSH IZ S0 st00pid!" line.

    Don't you have somewhere better to go, like DU, Daily Kos, Townhall-dot-com, or some such political playpen? This is supposed to be geek pr0n here, not the communal partisan drool bucket.

    (and yes, I'd really like to see those plans published "open source" style, thanks much - if for no other reason than we geeks out here can avoid having them get obliterated by stupid government officials, as the Saturn V plans were in the 70's).

    (and yeah, fuggit - I got karma to burn by the supertanker-load, so all you oh-so-offended 24/7 partisan shitheads w/ points out there can Mod the post down until your dick hurts for all I care.)

    /P

  • Re:In theory.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by WallaceAndGromit (910755) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @05:40PM (#21756910) Homepage
    The problem with that logic comes with things that are related to military tech. It has never been in the best interest of a nations public to aid an enemies military development. Rocket technology that can achieve lunar orbit, is also capable of sending (nuclear or conventional) ballistic warheads anywhere on the globe. Publishing those designs in the open, so that rouge nations could literally copy the design, would likely get us all killed. In these cases, and others, it is in the best interest of the public that these technologies stay out of the public domain.
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @05:42PM (#21756944) Homepage Journal
    China doesn't have the funds to build an Ares rocket. Keep in mind that these things are based on shuttle technology. They're going to be incredibly expensive for us to fly until we get better at mass production, much less a country that has only minor space-infrastructure.

    - WWII
    - Space Race
    - Cold War

    The U.S. won these because it's an economic powerhouse, not because it was technologically superior. Heck, Germany was kicking our asses on technology in WWII and Russia was ahead of us for most of the space race. The Cold War couldn't have been won by either side, so we bankrupted the USSR.

    The deciding factor in all cases was that we could out-spend, out-manufacture, and over-commit manpower that the opposition could not. Combined with a bit of American "can-do" attitude, these factors have always lead the US to victory.

    China does not have the economic power (at least, not yet) to compete in a true space-race. If they did, they wouldn't actually need our designs. They'd be capable of making their own.
  • by frith01 (1118539) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @05:49PM (#21757058)
    I was actually just stating facts. You do realize of course that the Scuds that were launched in the first Gulf war were intended to hit cities / industrial targets, and one of the main reasons they did not was due to poor guidance software ? (Patriots did knock a couple off-track of course.) The Open Specifications are of course available due to the reasons you mentioned. The export restriction variations are a specific executive decision type thing that can be directly tied to an administration. That is not political screed.
  • Re:In theory.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @05:51PM (#21757092)
    Don't be silly. As has been pointed out in the past, if you want to design a rocket for military strikes using a Lunar rocket design is an ABSURD way to proceed. The payload requirements are absurd overkill, as is the support infrastructure.

    Now, if you want to worry that the technology itself might be adapted to weapons, I point out certain political realities.

    1. Anyone stupid enough to launch a rocket at the US or other modern nation is toast. Missles can be tracked back to the origin, and the origin will shortly thereafter be reduced to some rather fundamental particles.

    2. Anyone wanting to deliver a doomsday suicide nuclear payload or other payload would do MUCH better at MUCH cheaper prices to smuggle it into a port city or across the border. If they're capable of engineering such an attack they can figure that out - and we have no missle to trace back to the origin. Not to mention we can't shoot it down...

    The only concern that I might buy would be China or some other large country we're worried about having to fight on a large scale getting access to modern tech they don't currently have. However, most of what they need to figure it out themselves they already have thanks to loads upon loads of outsourcing and buildup of their own economy and academic brainpower. They're trying their own moon shots already, remember? And one of the founding members of their program we chased out of OUR country.

    If you want to limit rocket building potential, you'll have to limit everyone else's access to smart people. Otherwise you'll eventually face the problem anyway, after imposing a lot of pain on your own smart people to no particular purpose.
  • by ardent99 (1087547) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @06:03PM (#21757248)
    If you read TFA, they are not opening up the designs for any parts, or making the software public. They are just making the *specifications* (i.e. the technical requirements) public. This is to encourage more competition in the bidding process. I don't think the project manager is right to call this "open source". They are probably just trying to get some public play out of using that phrase.

    But be that as it may, it is still interesting that they even published the specifications, given the forces at work in the world today. As any engineer that has built a system knows, it is *much* easier to build something when you have been given detailed specs than when you have to come up with the requirements yourself. Also, the specs are very revealing about what the actual capabilities and weaknesses the final result will have. This could be useful information for someone who wants to compete with, or interfere with, the US space program. So this move is rather interesting.
  • by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @06:09PM (#21757324)
    New software will not help - there isn't some amazing algorithm out there that takes data from crappy sensors and makes it 100% accurate. Now if they were able to duplicate some of the hardware that went with the software then it could be of some use - but the point is that the hardware is the hard part.
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @06:33PM (#21757638) Homepage

    China does not have the economic power (at least, not yet) to compete in a true space-race. If they did, they wouldn't actually need our designs. They'd be capable of making their own.

    Dude, China currently has more US currency reserves than the US does, and almost everything you buy was made by them -- your trade deficit with China is massive. Don't underestimate what China could do if they mobilized.

    The Cold War couldn't have been won by either side, so we bankrupted the USSR.

    That mostly happened on its own.

    The deciding factor in all cases was that we could out-spend, out-manufacture, and over-commit manpower that the opposition could not.

    All of which China has in spades over the US right now.

    China has something orbiting the moon as we speak, the US can't keep their shuttle program straight.

    Maybe not now, but before long, China will be a very dominant player in space.

    Cheers
  • by AKAImBatman (238306) <akaimbatman@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @07:04PM (#21757978) Homepage Journal

    Dude, China currently has more US currency reserves than the US does

    It also has a population of 1.3 billion people among which those resources are spread. The US's economic backbone is based on a mere 300 million. That's about a 4:1 difference. The US is still more economically powerful, and will remain that way for now. I'll start worrying when modern living conditions, technology, and high-paying jobs become available to ALL 1.3 billion Chinese, and not just those living in major cities.

    Or to put it bluntly, the Communist control is not conducive to strong economic development. The USSR also tried to run their economy out of just the major economic centers and went bankrupt for it. (Much of the US's strength comes just as much from its rural economic machines as it does its high-population areas.)

    The Cold War couldn't have been won by either side, so we bankrupted the USSR.
    That mostly happened on its own.

    No, it didn't. The USSR was definitely headed in that direction, but we seized the opportunity to stick it to them. Remember the Star Wars program? It was mostly hogwash that forced the Russians to spend incredible amounts of money to "keep up". Remember the Russian Space Shuttle? Yeah, it cost them a fortune to "keep up". (Amusingly, for no real return on space technology.)

    Altogether, the US was able to force the hand of the USSR on some really expensive stuff. By the time it collapsed, the government was bankrupt and the leaders were all too ready to get out of office.

    All of which China has in spades over the US right now.

    Not really. The Chinese economy has been improving, but it's nowhere near powerful enough to match the US's economy. If it was, they'd be devoting all their economic power toward producing products for the average Chinese person and not the average American or European.

    Make no mistake: China is really good at posturing. They make themselves out to be a lot more threatening than they actually are. That's not to say that they are not dangerous on a world stage, merely that they cannot compete with US economic output. Yes, our heavy industry would take a huge hit if China stopped producing tomorrow. But it would recover very fast (partially through a factory building program, and partially by shifting to our industry outsourced to other areas of the world), and have no real impact on our ability to execute military or space-based industry. (Both of which are required to be handled by US companies.)
  • by markov_chain (202465) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @08:33PM (#21759090) Homepage
    Instead, it's the design of the manufacturing systems that determines how cheap and reliably we can make the thing.

    Yes, but building the manufacturing systems is *expensive*. It is nearly hand-made machinery with ridiculous tolerances and materials. Having the design won't do you much good without the industrial base to support the building.
  • by dbIII (701233) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:23PM (#21759564)
    We have got to where we are today by having knowlege disseminated by journals and by having published standards. Poorly educated business types that think a financial gain should come from ANY advantage miss this. Open source is just a subset of the sharing that has enabled us to develop and improve technology.

What this country needs is a good five cent microcomputer.

Working...