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Space

ESA Unveils Re-Entry Module 101

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the isn't-that-exciting dept.
bmcage writes "The ESA unveiled the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, a real re-entry vehicle. Although it will not be reused, it has a better geometry than NASA's Orion or the Russian Soyuz, giving better lift, and control. This is not done by the addition of useless wings, but by using two brakes. Finally a departure from the Apollo design that is actually better?"
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ESA Unveils Re-Entry Module

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  • It's a lifting body (Score:5, Informative)

    by phayes (202222) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @10:37AM (#25640695) Homepage

    Bmcage needs to look into what lifting bodies are -- they do not need wings.

    Wings were added to the shuttle to respond to the the USAF's crossrange requirements & some of the early shuttle plans looked a lot like this.

  • Thoughts (Score:3, Informative)

    by Thelasko (1196535) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @10:38AM (#25640725) Journal
    I know it's an experimental craft, but there doesn't seem to be much room left over for a crew. It looks like the parachutes take up one third of the vehicle.

    It kinda reminds me of a cross between an X-37 [wikipedia.org] and an X-38. [wikipedia.org] Mostly the X-38.

    It doesn't seem to have enough control surfaces or reaction control devices.
  • Re:Thoughts (Score:5, Informative)

    by necro81 (917438) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @10:51AM (#25641019) Journal

    Mostly it is a testbed of the design and aeronautical controls. Looking at the movie's many exploded and shaded CAD views (nice touch, guys), it appears to have no cargo space whatsoever. It doesn't look to me like that's what they have in mind - they just want to show that the flight fundamentals of the design are sound. They can work on building a larger one for cargo and/or humans if they manage this first significant milestone.

  • Re:Thoughts (Score:3, Informative)

    by confused one (671304) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @11:05AM (#25641447)
    It appears to be a scaled down test bed. The "full size" manned version will undoubtedly be much larger.
  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @11:07AM (#25641499) Homepage Journal

    Pretty much. And frankly wings are not that heavy. The shuttle didn't just have a very large crossrange requirement but also a huge bring back capability.
    The Shuttle is capable of bringing the Hubble back to be worked on if needed. In fact the plan was for the Shuttle to bring back the Hubble so it could sit in a museum when it's life is over.
    It is a capability that has never really been used except for the SpaceLab flights.
    Frankly the Shuttle was an attempt to jump from the Wright Flyer to a 707. We really needed to build a Ford Trimotor and a DC-3 first.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @11:36AM (#25642365)

    [Shuttle bring back] is a capability that has never really been used except for the SpaceLab flights.

    Also, there was the Long Duration Exposure Facility. [wikipedia.org] It taught us a lot of what we know about how materials react to the space environment.

    Regardless of what I think of the shuttle, LDEF was Good Science.

  • Re:Trollish Summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by vlm (69642) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @11:39AM (#25642443)

    By doing things like using useless wings to get up to altitude before launch thus requiring less propellant.

    No, that doesn't work. The cheapest part of a spacecraft is its propellants, second cheapest is the propellant tanks, third cheapest is to buy or design a bigger engine at the start of the design process (kind of difficult later on in the development cycle). The most expensive part of a spacecraft is systems integration, and adding wings and horizontal flight is hard to integrate. The aerodynamics of ultra high speed wings is a huge pain, and simply isn't needed, so why bother.

    You are probably not aware of the 666 rule... Not to keep you in suspense, mach 6 at 60,000 feet (thats 20 kilometers in the civilized world) is a whopping 6% of total orbital energy. An impossible speed at an impossible altitude provides practically no advantage over a simpler ballistic design with tanks that are about 1/20th bigger. Most people have the peculiar idea that a civilian airliner at cruise is "almost in orbit" and the slightest push is all that is needed for a 747 to reach the ISS, and that couldn't be further from the truth.

    Making an airplane that flies at mach 6 and 60Kft is no laughing matter, and then making it also a spacecraft is simply unrealistic. On the other hand making the fuel tanks a bit larger is no big deal.

    There are three advantages to air launch that apply in almost no situations. One is the obvious lack of ground support, don't need to license a "spaceport" just another airport, however the EPA, FAA, USAF, NORAD, BATF, etc are going to harass you just the same anyway so this is again another way to get a small advantage at a huge cost. I guess Rutan and friends thought it was worth it, but thats a regulation and political decision not a technological decision. The other advantage is for military purposes you can assume a large fleet of aircraft could simultaneously launch an even larger number of rocket vehicles from anywhere an airplane can fly, possibly at great surprise to the enemy, this is the nuclear tipped cruise missile idea applied to a suborbital ballistic trajectory, which isn't such a bad idea but never got much traction, at least in the USA. Maybe Rutan daydreamed of selling hundreds of his vehicles to the USAF for recon purposes or something. There is a third reason to airlaunch, if you're basically making a circus carnival ride as opposed to a real vehicle, then air launch makes the roller coaster ride even more spectacular.

  • by argent (18001) <peter.slashdot@2006@taronga@com> on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @11:43AM (#25642559) Homepage Journal

    I am also concerned about the total reliance on one big honker parachute, and wonder what the vehicle's speed will be (slowed by pure air drag alone?) when that main has to deploy.

    Watch the video, there's three drogues before the main cute is popped.

  • by TorKlingberg (599697) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @12:26PM (#25643789)
    China has launched men into space since 2003 (again in 2005 and September this year). ESA's plans for it's own manned space launches are little more than concepts at this time and would require much more funding from the European governments unless they want to cut all the robotic missions. ESA does have it's own astronauts who ride on American or Russian launchers, and ESA built and owns parts of the ISS.

    IXV that this article is about is a small testing platform, not a manned spacecraft.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @12:45PM (#25644299)

    I must disagree. The ESA programme is designed to improve spaceflight in small steps. They try to be very cost effective. And this path has brought them the biggest market share in space cargo delivery (in form of Ariane Space).

    ESA has also a Mars programme called Aurora, which includes the delivery and return of humans. But before going there, technologies have to developed which can transport objects into space and safely return them. And because the Europeans do not think they are participators in a race, they just do one step after the other. A little less ego and a little bit more engineering.

    And the thing with the funding is already fixed. ESA already has the money to do this test flight.

    The launcher Vega is there coming up cheap delivery system for smaller payloads. So it is quite logic to use it for the test instead of developing a special rocket just for this technology demonstrator.

    Furthermore the Ariane 5 is already designed to transport reentry vehicles (have a look at the Hermes project). However the European reentry vehicle Hermes was never build because it was too expensive and would have eaten up all funding for ESA. While ESA and the national space agencies in Europe have in total only half of the funding of NASA, they couldn't afford such expensive technology. SO they are looking for a cheap and reliable transportation device.

    And from my point of view, I don't care if they get to the moon 1 or 20 year after the Chinese as long as they get there.

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