Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Space NASA

Panel Advises Longer Life For Space Station 237

Posted by samzenpus
from the if-it-isn't-broke dept.
suraj.sun writes "A presidential panel reviewing the US space program has found that the United States needs to boost NASA's budget by $1.5 billion to fly the last seven shuttle missions and should extend International Space Station operations through 2020. The panel also proposed adding an extra, eighth shuttle flight to help keep the station supplied and narrow an expected 5-7 year gap between the time the shuttle fleet is retired and a new US spaceship is ready to fly."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Panel Advises Longer Life For Space Station

Comments Filter:
  • No they didn't. (Score:5, Informative)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @11:49PM (#28877339) Homepage Journal

    The Shuttle/ISS subcommittee headed by Dr Sally Ride has presented three options:

    1. Do nothing, let the shuttle stop flying at the end of 2010 and let the station be de-orbited at the end of 2016.
    2. Fly 1 more mission, and still de-orbit the station at the end of 2016.
    3. Extend station operations through to the end of 2020 and fly more shuttle missions to support it.

    The options explain how to do it, what funding will be required, and the consequences on other programs.

    The President and the new NASA Administrator will take these options and decide which to implement, depending on what funding they can get from Congress.

    The committee is not chartered with making any recommendations, and the options are not final until the report is released, around Aug 31.

    You can give your opinions to the committee via the website: http://hsf.nasa.gov/ [nasa.gov]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Isn't there a fourth option? Namely- use Soyuz to transport people from now on until NASA develops something else that can dock with the station. I'm still pissed off that they canceled the habitation and gravity research modules- both after the modules had already been assembled!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by QuantumG (50515) *

        Umm.. that's all 3 options. Even if the shuttle gets extended, it will only be extended up until Orion is flying. And if COTS-D comes along, that will change things too.

      • Re:No they didn't. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Brian Gordon (987471) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @12:15AM (#28877511)
        Of course, designing and assembling the modules is nothing compared to the cost of getting thousands of kilograms more than 300km straight up against gravity and accelerated to 7700 meters per second...
        • by Kagura (843695)

          Of course, designing and assembling the modules is nothing compared to the cost of getting thousands of kilograms more than 300km straight up against gravity and accelerated to 7700 meters per second...

          Wow. Even LEO spaceflight is interesting when put like that.

        • Re:No they didn't. (Score:4, Informative)

          by afidel (530433) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:11AM (#28878113)
          No, those modules probably cost significantly more than a single shuttle launch (even as stupid expensive as that is). In fact a quick search shows Japan sunk more than $700M into the CAM unit with about another $100M from NASA for experiment modules to be placed within it. Even without any other involvement we are up to $800M in sunk costs, the incremental cost for a shuttle launch is ~$60M.
          • space shuttle cost (Score:5, Informative)

            by David Jao (2759) <djao@dominia.org> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:10AM (#28878435) Homepage

            the incremental cost for a shuttle launch is ~$60M.

            NASA says the cost per shuttle launch is $450 million [nasa.gov].

            • by afidel (530433) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @09:20AM (#28880835)
              There's a difference between the program cost divided by missions and the incremental cost per mission.
            • Still less than the 800 million the module cost.
            • by roystgnr (4015)

              You dropped a word from the phrase you were replying to; "cost" and "incremental cost" are not the same thing.

              Example: the cost to produce 10,000,000 DVDs might be $10 per DVD, because the blockbuster movie cost $100,000,000 to make. But once the movie is made you don't have to make 10% more movie to make 10% more DVDs, you just have to print more disks; the incremental cost would be less than $1 per DVD.

              With the shuttle things are even more complicated. Do you want the total cost per flight; the amount o

        • Exactly!. Why do they insist it needs de-orbiting in 2016? This seems to be the ultimate stupidity! (Sell it to Hilton as the ultimate (for now) tourist destination!)
      • Re:No they didn't. (Score:5, Informative)

        by DerekLyons (302214) <`fairwater' `at' `gmail.com'> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @12:46AM (#28877701) Homepage

        Isn't there a fourth option? Namely- use Soyuz to transport people from now on

        Without Shuttle to provide the cargo upmass and reboosts - there isn't a fourth option. Soyuz and Progress can't do it, ATV won't fly often enough, and HTV is still largely in the vaporware category (and even if it was flying, wouldn't add sufficient performance).

        • Re:No they didn't. (Score:4, Informative)

          by the_other_chewey (1119125) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @06:30AM (#28879489)

          Isn't there a fourth option? Namely- use Soyuz to transport people from now on

          Without Shuttle to provide the cargo upmass and reboosts - there isn't a fourth option. Soyuz and Progress can't do it, ATV won't fly often enough, and HTV is still largely in the vaporware category [...]

          Except that actually most ISS reboosts are done by Progress, and the Shuttle in fact is pretty useless for them.
          Quoting http://www.thespacerace.com/forum/index.php?topic=1476.0 [thespacerace.com] :

          "Most reboosts use the Progress attitude control thrusters, however larger burns are done using the Progress main engines.
          When there is no Progress docked to the Service Module (SM) aft, the SM's two (or just one of the two) main engines could also
          be used to perform a reboost. Finally, the Orbiter [i.e., the Shuttle] does generally perform a reboost of ISS during a docked
          mission. Due to the fact that a majority of the Orbiter's thrusters cannot be used when docked (due to concerns of plume impacts
          on ISS), they don't really get much more delta V out of the Orbiter than they do the Progress or SM. The largest benefit is
          that it uses Orbiter propellants, not the limited supply that is maintained on ISS."


          Or, if you don't like that source, nasaspaceflight.com [nasaspaceflight.com]:
          "Generally ISS reboosts are performed by the Progress resupply ship thrusters"

          So no, a lack of Shuttle flights will not result in a lack of ISS reboosts. And now that they can recycle their water,
          fresh water isn't that high a priority for cargo flights any more either. It'll mean a couple more transporter flights (and,
          someone will have to pay for those of course) but the ISS can survive without any Shuttle flights at all without any problems.

        • by Cyberax (705495)

          "Progress" can deliver enough fuel for station-keeping, they don't require that much of it.

          Consumables and spare parts are another matter. But if number of people on the station is decreased, then it can be supported long enough for Shuttle replacement.

    • option 4: the US quits participating, and they leave it in orbit and other countries continue to fly to it and to use it, as they currently do.

      -- Terry

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by QuantumG (50515) *

        The US has the responsibility to deorbit it. Whether they do that in 2016 or 2020 is a question of budget. The only way to not deorbit it would be transfer ownership and the new owner would have to be ITAR-compatible and be able to prove that they could deorbit it when they are done with it.

        • by karstux (681641) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:05AM (#28878401) Homepage

          Why deorbit it at all? They could attach an ion drive to the station and slowly raise the orbit until it won't decay for another 500 years or so. The station can withstand that much acceleration. There's certainly space enough up there, it's not like it takes up valuable room... also, lifting all that mass into orbit has been so stupidly expensive, they should at least reserve the option to use it at some point in the future. Anything else is irresponsible.

          At the very least, it would be an interesting machinery longevity experiment. Re-visit the station in 50 years or so, just to see how it has stood up to the environment up there. Also, at some point in the future it will be an archaeological artifact, and valuable to future historians.

          • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:34AM (#28878567) Homepage Journal

            I mentioned this in another post (or two):

            1. There's no ion engine that can do the job.
            2. The US put it up, they're legally required to bring it down.

            And finally:

            3. The station barely functions now, it will not function after even 2 years of neglect, let alone 50.

            Smarter people than you are working on this program, give em some credit.

            • by shmlco (594907)

              We spent billions on the parts and on putting the thing up there. If nothing else break apart the truss and stick smaller motors (ion, rocket, or otherwise) on the individual pieces and boost them up to a higher orbit.

              Maybe the first stage of a Mars mission would be grabbing a spare module or two and a couple of big solar panels.

              • by QuantumG (50515) *

                What part of this don't you understand? The space environment is hard. Anything stored up there for too long deteriorates. Parts are made to last a certain amount of time. In the case of the ISS, the parts were made to last until the end of the program.

          • by shmlco (594907)

            Great idea! Ah... got a spare ion drive on you? I left mine at home.

  • One has to wonder... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by RuBLed (995686)
    Why no other country had succeeded yet in developing technologies that could mimic what the space shuttle could do in order to supply the "International" Space station after the United States retire the shuttles. (with the exception of Russia)

    In reality the United States space programs are still quite advanced than most of the world (even with such old technologies) and yet you guys are neglecting it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Brian Gordon (987471)
      Because going from "we should build a space rocket thingy" to getting into that kind of orbit is extremely expensive. We've built NASA over 50 years of continuous research and have veterans running the administration that have worked there their entire career. You can't just stuff a bunch of engineering grads in a building with calculators and piles of money and let them cook like we did, unless you want to give them 50 years and several horrible disasters. And once you have the thing designed and built,
      • by Gary W. Longsine (124661) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @01:19AM (#28877869) Homepage Journal
        That's one of the major problems with the current Constellation / Orion / Aeries I / Aeries V / Moon / Mars plan. Although it's likely to be quite a bit more reliable (e.g. safer) to fly, the Constellation program doesn't do much to increase access to space. Constellation re-uses the Apollo/Shuttle launch infrastructure, with only two launch pads and two (or possibly 3, there is an unfunded plan to build one more) crawlers, and the constraints of the Vertical Assembly Building (with a limited number of assembly bays, one of which is used for storage of rocket parts). This means the flight rate to orbit tops out at something like a dozen or 18 launches a year, maximum. Flight rates for the heavy lift Aeries V are likely to be so low that the vehicle will never achieve a reasonable per-flight cost, because too few vehicles will be built to get the cost of flight hardware down.

        NASA has abandoned the goal of building a reliable, cheaper transportation system. They were hot on the trail with the X-33 / VentureStar [wikipedia.org] program. Like nearly all R&D programs, it went over the original budget and behind schedule. However, the program had the right goals, and the right basic plan for getting to them. If NASA had stayed on course, we would have had a replacement for the Shuttle by now. The planned VentureStar production flight vehicles would be flexible enough to sustain the ISS. It would have a capacity high enough (in terms of payload per flight, which was similar to the Shuttle) and flights per year (which could scale with the addition of vehicles, without the constraints of the expensive and limited Apollo-era launch systems). The modernized vehicle design (lifting body airframe, engines with fewer moving parts, substantially more durable thermal protection system, simplified container-paradigm-based payload integration) would yield shorter turn-around of a single vehicle, from days to a couple weeks, compared to a few months to several months for the Shuttle).

        Instead, NASA dabbles in scramjets, with a million here and a million there in loose change. Scramjets are a technology with great potential, but even if aggressively funded (which they are not) they won't be ready for a long, long time. A more modest program like the X-33 / VentureStar could get us to higher flight rates with Shuttle-like capacity and reduction in cost of payload delivery which would be substantial enough to stimulate the space economy. We could get to the Moon and Mars a lot cheaper, and go there more often with a rational approach to building a transportation system. (NASA needs to rethink the in-space transfer vehicles, too. VASIMR is a technology within our reach, and if developed as the inter-planetary engine, can dramatically reduce flight times to Mars, from many months to 1 month.)
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by FleaPlus (6935)

          NASA has abandoned the goal of building a reliable, cheaper transportation system. They were hot on the trail with the X-33 / VentureStar program. Like nearly all R&D programs, it went over the original budget and behind schedule. However, the program had the right goals, and the right basic plan for getting to them.

          I was with you right up until you mentioned the X-33. The X-33 would've tested some really neat technologies, but the way to test previously-untested new technologies is NOT to cram them all into one spacecraft which relies on all of them working to succeed. Rather, one creates a number of simple spacecraft which test all the technologies individually. The X-33 approach was just asking for failure.

          That, and I'm rather more partial to the DC-X [wikipedia.org] approach to single-stage to orbit. It relied on already-existing

        • by djtachyon (975314)
          Has everybody forgotten this Slashdot Article [slashdot.org], where SpaceX [spacex.com] & Orbital [orbital.com] have pending contracts to resupply the Space Station once their much further progressed vehicles are ready?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FleaPlus (6935)

      Why no other country had succeeded yet in developing technologies that could mimic what the space shuttle could do in order to supply the "International" Space station after the United States retire the shuttles. (with the exception of Russia)

      Sally Ride mentioned this in her Augustine Committee presentation, but other countries do have this tech, and will have it ready to service the ISS in a few years. There's also the COTS options as well. I thought it was kind of bizarre when Sally Ride immediately said afterwards that she didn't think they would be able to reduce the gap, without explaining her rationale.

      Anyways, here's the options:

      * Russian Soyuz
      * ESA's ATV [wikipedia.org]
      * Japan's HTV [wikipedia.org]
      * SpaceX Dragon [wikipedia.org]
      * Orbital Taurus II [wikipedia.org]

      There's also the EELVs (Delta IV and A

      • ATV has already [esa.int] delivered cargo to the station, the shuttle is not required for that.

        Soyuz has already proved more than capable of shuttling crew [redorbit.com], so the shuttle is not required for that either.

        The Shuttle really isn't required (except as a sop to NASA's pride) once the station is built and operational, and trying to extend its lifetime by yet another expensive mission leads me to think that NASA really has lost its way in internal politics and power struggles.

        The shuttle should have been shut down years ag

  • by crow (16139) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @12:01AM (#28877427) Homepage Journal

    If they're going to decommission a shuttle, why not leave it at the station? It would provide some redundant facilities, extra living space, and most importantly, engines to boost the orbit periodically (one of the main things the shuttles do now besides delivering supplies and new components).

    • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @12:10AM (#28877491) Homepage Journal

      It'd stop working about about a month or two and that'd just be more facility for the Russians to spend time repairing.

      The Shuttle simply isn't speced for long term exposure to space. The fact that it doesn't fall apart for the 14 days that it is typically on-orbit is a result of constant care and attention on the ground.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      If they're going to decommission a shuttle, why not leave it at the station?

      Because it will die twenty odd days after docking if used as redundant facilities, forty odd days if nearly completely powered down. Even if ISS could power Shuttle (which it currently cannot), the Shuttle uses canisters to scrub CO2 from the atmosphere rather than a molecular sieve. (And ventilation hoses cannot be run through the hatches for safety reasons.)

      There's more problems than those, but those are the biggies.

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        How many hundred canisters could you stack in the cargo bay? I think if I were trying to solve this, I'd take the shuttle, build an empty SpaceLab module, fill half of it with fuel cells and half of it with additional tanks for the OMS engines. Fill all the sleeping quarters with filter canisters since nobody would be sleeping on the shuttle anyway. Add power connectors on the outside of the module so you could crack the CBDs and use it as an auxiliary power source for the station if things went wrong...

      • by afidel (530433)
        What about leaving it attached as a large life boat with remote control of the telemetry system for orbit adjustments? Would the shuttle take much power if it wasn't supporting life support systems but just keeping itself in the right temperature range for systems to function?
        • Absolute maximum power down still only buys you (IIRC) fifty to sixty days before the Shuttle dies.

    • How exactly do you think the astronauts will get back to earth *alive* then?

    • I don't know how they plan to get this to the ISS, but Ad Astra and NASA agreed to test VASIMR ion engine at ISS [spacefellowship.com]. Assuming they can resupply the engine, and the engine parts designed life is sufficient, even this test article could work to keep ISS on station for quite a while. The Russian resupply vehicles (Progress) periodically boost the station, too.
  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @12:02AM (#28877431) Journal
    Almost New - In orbit. Space Station. NR

    Shipping - no delivery options. Get there yourself.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by QuantumG (50515) *

      Actually, there's ITAR restrictions on selling the station to anyone who would conceivably want it.

      Can you believe that? The Russians have daily access to the ISS but selling it to them would be an ITAR issue.

      Not that there's any evidence they are willing or able to buy it.

      • by ppanon (16583)
        If anybody would want to buy it, it would be the Chinese. They have the dollars to spare these days.
  • Can someone please explain to me why they're spending such vast sums and not taking the necessary steps to insure permanence?

    You don't settle something by building tents, you build crude wooden structures, add to them, modernize them, then one day you look around you and its a bustling township.

    Space will not become commercially viable until the government funded projects provide permanent way-points.

    Imagine building a second ISS nearby, anchoring the two together, and setting them spinning to provide artif

    • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @12:12AM (#28877501)
      Every space station is temporary. Eventually things start to fail (see MIR) and end up becoming very expensive to maintain or unsafe to keep sending missions.
      • by plasmacutter (901737) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @12:36AM (#28877657)

        Every space station is temporary. Eventually things start to fail (see MIR) and end up becoming very expensive to maintain or unsafe to keep sending missions.

        This is not how commercially viable megastructures work though! and that's my point!

        Modern commercial structures are bipartite, consisting of a permanent shell and a modular interior. Think of any modern office building or strip mall. When one company moves out its a matter of simple retrofitting to get the next tenant company at home and functioning.

        This is how a space station SHOULD work. It should have a permanent shell capable of containing life support, modular, easily replaced apparatus for essentials (air and water supply/purification), and an interior which is easily fitted and re-fitted as necessary.

        Doubleplusgood points for artificial gravity through rotation to prevent bone loss of employees for future commercial tenants.

        • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @12:46AM (#28877703) Homepage
          Nice idea, but it won't get off the ground. Literally. Too many payload constraints to really do that sort of thing. Everything pushed into space has to be really thought about, weighed, tested and re thought about.

          You're reading too many Science Fiction novels again. No Russian scrubbers piloted by stoned Rostas. No shuttle tanks parked in orbit.

          At least for a while. Let's get Mr. Fusion working and then look at these issues.
        • There are a few problems with that.

          A) Space currently is not a commercial venture in 2009. The fact that Virgin Galactic doesn't have a base on the moon is proof of that. Currently you need a ton of funding to even get a single person in space.

          B) It currently costs a -ton- of money to get someone to a stable orbit that won't decay in a few years. Even the space shuttle can't even make it that high.

          C) You also fail to see that what you consider "permanent" generally isn't. Even a simple thing suc
          • There are a few problems with that.

            A) Space currently is not a commercial venture in 2009. The fact that Virgin Galactic doesn't have a base on the moon is proof of that. Currently you need a ton of funding to even get a single person in space.

            B) It currently costs a -ton- of money to get someone to a stable orbit that won't decay in a few years. Even the space shuttle can't even make it that high.

            C) You also fail to see that what you consider "permanent" generally isn't. Even a simple thing such as a broken hose can be a matter of life or death. Eventually things start to wear out and they aren't easy to replace.

            Space stations are designed for one thing, for scientific experiments. They are a huge labyrinth of wires, hoses, scientific instruments, etc. And the fact that they can't be cleaned is another big difference. You can't exactly just decide one day to bring it back and scrub it out.

            A - America is not a commercial vendor in 1492, the fact that the dutch east india company is not trading there is proof of that.

            B - it currently costs a TON of money to establish a colony in america that can actually become sustainable in the next decade.

            c - you also fail to see that what you consider "permanent" generally isn't. It takes a long time for a colony to reach the point it can become truly independent, and we, the spanish crown, simply can't afford that.

            see the parallels i'm trying to illustrat

            • I would like to point out that the Spanish got jack all for their empire. They blew all the gold and silver they could dig out of the ground on the 16th century of hookers and blow (hookers and soldiers), and then left the colonies to rot. There's a reason Latin America was such a political basket case for the first 150 years following Independence.

              The British by comparison just kept sending people to die until they overwhelmed any problems with sheer numbers. That seemed to work much better. Moral: Do

        • by FleaPlus (6935) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @04:01AM (#28878717) Journal

          The modular approach you describe is more-or-less what Bigelow Aerospace [wikipedia.org] is doing with their private space stations. It'll also be flying at a higher orbit than the ISS, so should suffer less from atmospheric drag problems.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ciroknight (601098)
        Everything starts to fall, except those things that aren't actually falling. Geosynchronous Orbit is incredibly stable, e.g. Satellites that fail in GEO are just pushed higher, simply because it'd cost so much in the way of energy to push them down into the atmosphere.

        Which leads us to the real reason we aren't aiming for permanency yet. Those orbits are very high. While other vehicles could reach it reasonably, our main space construction workhorse, the Space Shuttle, couldn't. It's too heavy and doesn'
    • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @12:16AM (#28877523) Homepage Journal

      It has a mass of 303t.. and it is in such a low orbit that atmospheric drag is still a major effect.. so you've got to boost that vast mass back into its orbit every couple of months.

      The "permanent" adjective applied to the station means that it is "permanently manned" - as in, there is always someone on-board for as long as the station is up there.

      People are often talking about moving the ISS into an orbit that is more useful for exploration.. say, an orbit that crosses the inclination of the Moon now and then. Basic calculations though, show that any attempt to "move" the ISS would cost as much delta-v as launching a brand new station.. and as launch costs remain the major dominating factor in space activities, you might as well make a new station.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by radtea (464814)

        and as launch costs remain the major dominating factor in space activities, you might as well make a new station.

        Piffle.

        There are dozens of ways of moving the ISS into a higher orbit. Let's start experimenting with them today.

        The only reason for decommissioning it in 2016 (or 2020) is the routine inability of the American government to actually do anything, coupled with the imperialist need to prevent anyone else from doing anything.

        Launch costs are spread nicely across the various states, giving a politic

        • He wasn't talking about a higher orbit. He was talking about an orbital plane change.

          Say it with me now: Plane changes are expensive.

          • by khallow (566160)

            Say it with me now: Plane changes are expensive.

            Please stop being so condescending. How expensive the plane change is depends on how big a change it is. As I crudely understand it, the price is the delta v of getting to orbit times the angle difference of the two planes divided by 90 degrees. So a 90 degree plane change would be equivalent to putting the satellite in orbit. Making it orbit in the opposite direction (a 180 degree plane change) would cost twice the delta v of getting something into orbit.

      • by khallow (566160)

        People are often talking about moving the ISS into an orbit that is more useful for exploration.. say, an orbit that crosses the inclination of the Moon now and then. Basic calculations though, show that any attempt to "move" the ISS would cost as much delta-v as launching a brand new station..

        Even if that were true (my understanding is that the plane change is only around 25 to 30 degrees which is a touch less than half the delta v required to put the station in orbit), we can use much more efficient engines in space. That is, boost the ISS to a slightly higher orbit and then use the ion engines to make the plane change over a few years.

        • by khallow (566160)

          my understanding is that the plane change is only around 25 to 30 degrees which is a touch less than half the delta v required to put the station in orbit

          My math is incorrect. I'll need to look up the math to see what it should be. At a guess, I'd say that it's roughly a third (instead of half) of the delta v of putting something in orbit. The plane change would be from 50+ degrees (the orbit that goes over Russian launch sites) to 23.5 degrees (that passes over Kennedy Space Center).

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by markringen (1501853)
      particles in space will eventually destroy everything. the Russian mir was full of holes at the end of it's life. but till date it was the safest space station ever created by man, the same people also made 75% of the ISS :P (Russians yup)
    • Atmospheric drag brings the ISS down 2km per month according to the wikipedia infobox.

      Unless you want to pay ten times as much to get it into a much higher orbit, you're not going to have "permanence". But I definitely agree; it doesn't really make much sense to be decommissioning it in a few years when it's still under construction..
    • Although a space station as a "construction shack" might be useful for really large projects, the ISS isn't in the right orbit to be used as a way station to anywhere interesting. Smaller projects can be assembled easily in whatever orbit happens to be convenient for the mission. A mobile construction shack with an ion engine and appropriately outfitted for such duty would make more sense and cost less than retooling ISS for this new mission. The real issue is the cost of getting to orbit. It's way too
  • How about using Russian-made spacecraft to do resupply missions and to ferry people back and forth from the station. The Shuttle fleet is unsafe, every mission becomes closer to failure. And honestly, they are becoming quickly obsolete, they were released what, over 20 years ago? We need a replacement. However, the ISS seems to be doing its job pretty well without any major errors. But really, NASA needs to hurry up to make a new spacecraft fleet, the Space Shuttle relies on a flawed design that seems to on
    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      The problem is down mass. The shuttle has it, no other vehicle does, and the station was designed to require it.

      Say something breaks on-orbit that can't be fixed there.. do you just send up a new part? That will cost a lot more than sending the part down, having it repaired, and sending it back up.

      • Re:How about... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by meringuoid (568297) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:39AM (#28878265)
        do you just send up a new part? That will cost a lot more than sending the part down, having it repaired, and sending it back up.

        I suspect it will cost insignificantly more. The launch is usually the expensive part, not the construction of whatever it was that broke.

        The Space Shuttle was designed to be able to capture and to return to Earth satellites in orbit. It even did so a couple of times. Just enough to demonstrate that it wasn't worth doing, and that it was far more cost-effective to let dead satellites go and just put up a new one.

        • by QuantumG (50515) *

          What can I say? Dr Sally Ride disagrees with you.. and who the hell are you?

          Put ya ego aside for a moment.

      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        The problem is down mass. The shuttle has it, no other vehicle does, and the station was designed to require it.

        Honest question: How many times has that down-mass capability actually been used? I don't know of any time the "bring broken ISS equipment back to the ground" scenario you describe ever occurred, although I might just be unaware.

    • by afidel (530433)
      The space shuttle fleet met the design spec (1% failure) almost perfectly, Challenger was not a technological failure but a bureaucratic one. The design spec and the engineers said not to launch Challenger but the boneheads who wanted to look good decided to force the issue and launch over the objection of the people who are paid to analyze such things.
  • Ion engine? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @12:58AM (#28877771) Homepage Journal

    Couldn't they attach an ion engine and let the solar panel's power keep it in orbit if by chance it becomes unmanned for a while?

    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      There's no ion engine that can lift 303t. Maybe VASIMR will be operational one day.. but it's been in development since 1979, so don't bet on it.

      • VASIMR (Score:5, Informative)

        by Gary W. Longsine (124661) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:02AM (#28878051) Homepage Journal
        Near the end of 2008, Ad Astra and NASA signed an agreement to build a 200kw flight article and test it at ISS.
        • by QuantumG (50515) *

          ya.. and we'll see how well it goes.

          They've taken 30 years to go from TRL1 [wikipedia.org] to TRL5(ish) and meanwhile the rest of the community have focused on actual attainable thrusters.

          It's provided many a great PhD thesis (or ten) but I wouldn't expect anything operational soon..

          Remember the ultimate goal is nuclear.. fission, then fusion.

          • by khallow (566160)

            It's provided many a great PhD thesis (or ten) but I wouldn't expect anything operational soon..

            Why? The engine design isn't that hard. And you greatly exaggerate the time spent developing VASIMR.

            Remember the ultimate goal is nuclear.. fission, then fusion.

            No it's not. The ultimate goal is a space-faring civilization. Fission and fusion would merely be steps towards that.

      • by theheadlessrabbit (1022587) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:03AM (#28878055) Homepage Journal

        There's no ion engine that can lift 303t.

        then use two.

        I'm temped to suggest a beowulf cluster of ion engines, but I don't want to take the karma hit.

        Honestly, the answer is so simple! And I'm just a normal person who can't even do long division. How is it that I know all the answers to solving the ISS problems when these NASA engineers can't seem to figure it out? for serious...

      • by thue (121682)

        Any ion engine can lift 303t.

        This isn't like on the ground, where if you were told to go push on a 303t truck, friction would mean that you wouldn't move it at all. Any force applied to a mass floating in space, no matter how tiny the force, will go uncut to move the mass.

        In any case, if one ion engine firing continually isn't enough to move the space station, you can obviously use 2, as another poster pointed out before he was modded (+5, funny) for mentioning a Beowulf cluster of ion engines!

  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @03:35AM (#28878573) Journal

    For those interested, the third and final meeting will be broadcast Thursday, running from 8am - 4pm EDT:

    http://www.ustream.tv/channel/NASA-TV-HD [ustream.tv]
    http://www.hobbyspace.com/nucleus/index.php?itemid=14237 [hobbyspace.com]
    http://twitter.com/search?q=%23nasahsf [twitter.com]

    I think the Thursday meeting will be the most interesting one, as it'll include the presentations from the "Exploration Beyond Low Earth Orbit" [slashdot.org] subgroup. Some options the subgroup is studying include not just the "Moon Base" plan, but also plans for going directly to Mars ASAP, as well as a "Flexible path" option which would involve manned trips to destinations in shallow gravity wells, like L1, asteroids and Phobos.

    The videos from the Tuesday and Wednesday meetings aren't available yet, but you can find out much of what's been discussed already at the following links:

    HSF Committee Public Meeting in Alabama - Reviews [hobbyspace.com]
    HSF Committee Public Meeting in Houston - Reviews [hobbyspace.com]
    http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=17962.0 [nasaspaceflight.com]

  • My view is that we shouldn't consider serious extensions to the ISS's lifespan until we see a demonstration of the value of the ISS. Currently, the prime value of the ISS is as a demonstration of orbital construction techniques. The building process will end some time in 2011 or 2012. Past that, we really only have two uses for the station, scientific research on phenomena in zero gravity and a testbed for space technologies. My view is that NASA needs to enlist some serious participation from private indus

"Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago." -- Bernard Berenson

Working...