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Alternative Orion Missions Proposed

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  • by localroger (258128) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @06:41PM (#29140477) Homepage
    I always thought it was kind of stupid that our premier post-Apollo launch system couldn't get beyond LEO. Maintenance of GEO sats would probably be more useful than putting more footprints on Luna in terms of short-term returns.
    • by mikelieman (35628) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @07:01PM (#29140707) Homepage
      If you can maintain satellites in GEO, you can BUILD satellites in GEO. Hello Space Based Solar/Beamed Microwave, and We Win The Game! Pournelle has written extensively on this, e.g.:

      Prizes reduce market uncertainties by providing a floor. If the US were to offer a $1 billion prize for the first American company to fly a ship to orbit and bring it home 6 times in one year, we would probably have reusable space ships within five years, possibly sooner: a billion is a pretty good market incentive. And if the US were to offer $10 billion prize for the first American company to put 31 Americans on the surface of the Moon and keep them there alive and well for 3 years and a day, we would have a Lunar Colony within 7 years and probably sooner.

      The neat thing about prizes is that we spend no money unless someone wins.

      • If you can maintain satellites in GEO, you can BUILD satellites in GEO. Hello Space Based Solar/Beamed Microwave, and We Win The Game! Pournelle has written extensively on this, e.g.:

        For some reason I read that as "Hello Kitty" satellites.

        That, and you made me lose the game. =(

        • by hawk (1151)

          No!

          Never!

          The Orion game *must* continue to involve taking out the guardian; there can be no "alternative mission."

          No game changing, or I'll sic the Bulrathi on you! :)

          hawk

        • by unitron (5733)

          For some reason I read that as "Hello Kitty" satellites.

          That's okay, I misread the title as "Alternative Onion Missions Proposed".

      • The lunar base isn't going to happen. There isn't a market. The space tourism for the ultrarich is in its infancy. I doubt there are enough to keep the lunar base in business.
        • by mikelieman (35628)

          When you have construction crews in GEO building power stations, where exactly do you think they're going to go on long weekends and vacation?

          • Earth? I mean at least until the casinos open up on the moon.
          • by TheLink (130905)
            For long weekends how about recreational space stations? With various stuff like small parks, swimming pools, flying areas (wings available for rent), and fun "low/intermediate G" environments.

            Going to the moon or earth every long weekend would just be too expensive for many.

            Build a good enough recreational space station and maybe tourists from the Earth would pay lots of money to visit it.
            • by rts008 (812749)

              Until there is 'blackjack and hookers' up there, you are doomed to watch them pass you by on their way back to Earth for R&R.

      • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday August 21, 2009 @03:09AM (#29143853) Journal

        Pournelle has written extensively on this, e.g.:

        Stating opinions as facts does not make them facts. Let's assemble some actual facts:

        1 There are a lot of commercial satellites
        2 There is a market for commercial launches
        3 There have been a few sucessful commercial launches
        4 Commercial companies have not taken over the scene
        5 The space shuttle is the only vehicle which has ever been capable of servicing Hubble.

        I do not know where this bizarre delusion that all commercial companies must be necessarily better than all governments comes from. I can only assume it's by people who have never worked for a large company. Or at a small/medium sized one for that matter...

        • by vbraga (228124) on Friday August 21, 2009 @06:51AM (#29144621) Journal

          3 There have been a few sucessful commercial launches

          No, there's a plenty of commercial satelittes launches every single year. ULA [ulalaunch.com], EADS Astrium [eads.com], Orbital [orbital.com] to name a few.

          I don't know where to get statistics for this but a commercial launch is something very common place.

          • by FleaPlus (6935)

            I don't know where to get statistics for this but a commercial launch is something very common place.

            You can see a list of recent worldwide launches here:

            http://www.spaceflightnow.com/tracking/launchlog.html [spaceflightnow.com]

            As far as the US goes, the only non-commercial launches are the Space Shuttles, and there's quite a few commercial launches per Space Shuttle launch.

        • by khallow (566160)
          As the other poster noted, your "facts" aren't really facts. Also, I wonder why you bothered to take that last bash at private enterprise. Among other things, it completely mischaracterizes the benefits of private industry over public. Private industry isn't better because it is always better than the corresponding government agency. It is better because 1) The profit motive means they have incentive to reduce costs and provide useful services, especially in a competitive environment, and 2) we don't have t
    • Not stupid (Score:3, Informative)

      by S-100 (1295224)
      There was and is a good reason to keep manned spacecraft in LEO. Radiation. Geosynchronous satellites are outside the protection of the Van Allen radiation belts, and any astronauts traveling outside that protection are subject to high doses of pretty nasty radiation under normal circumstances, and outright lethal doses when solar storms occur.

      We still don't have a good solution to the radiation problem, which is one of the major obstacles to practical moon bases and Mars missions. Leave the satellite m
  • by SBrach (1073190) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @06:43PM (#29140491)
    Every time I see an Orion story I think project Orion. Actually don't pick a new name, just scrap Constellation and bring back the real Orion.
    • by wizardforce (1005805) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @06:54PM (#29140615) Journal

      The real Orion unfortunately can't exist due to the cold war era treaty banning nuclear tests in space. Orion based on closed nuclear reactor designs on the other hand may do the trick. Even using a decent sized reactor to power either plasma or ion engines would likely get around the treaty restriction.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by QuantumG (50515) *

        Yeah, cause the US gives a shit about international treaties.

        • by BerntB (584621)

          Not this one. The Russians make a point about being pissy about any details that shows them to not be the Soviet Union, anymore... :-)

          (Excuses in advance if I mangled the slang idiom.)

          All non-democratic states needs to get external enemies, so it is generally a good idea not to give them excuses. (Unless the local democratic leader also needs a conflict, sigh.)

        • by gnick (1211984)

          At a minimum it doesn't publicize violations. And, when violating them publicly, it announces the fact rather than getting caught with its pants down. Play fair. The US does give a shit about appearing to honor international treaties.

      • by Kratisto (1080113) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @07:18PM (#29140907)
        Ion engines would be impractical for a launch system, since they don't function in an atmosphere. I imagine that the vast majority of fuel used by a rocket is used escaping from Earth's gravity, rather than outside of the atmosphere where ion drives are viable.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by wizardforce (1005805)

          Orion [the original project] was never designed to reach orbit from Earth but in fact was only meant for space travel owing to its use of nuclear weapons being detonated behind the ship sequentially.

          • by Atlantis-Rising (857278) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @09:19PM (#29141933) Homepage

            Project Orion was certainly designed for planetary launch. They even did an analysis of how many people it would kill per launch due to fallout.

            • by NonSequor (230139)

              Project Orion was certainly designed for planetary launch. They even did an analysis of how many people it would kill per launch due to fallout.

              That's so metal.

              • I believe the estimate was something like 10 people would die per launch, but I'd have to find the figures.

                • by fredrik70 (161208) on Friday August 21, 2009 @08:44AM (#29145145) Homepage

                  according to this site [oriondrive.com]. you're correct. I quote:

                  "In the early 1960s, Freeman Dyson estimated that each launch from Earth would cause, on average, 10 fatal human cancers among the population of the entire planet (some people argue that these figures may be an over estimate because of the particular mathematical model used). "

                  From what I recall from the Project Orion book, they managed to get the estimated death down a bit, but still. A solution would be to only use the orion drive while in space, and only when outside earth's van allen belt as the magnetic field would drag some of the fallout back to earth.

              • Project Orion was certainly designed for planetary launch. They even did an analysis of how many people it would kill per launch due to fallout.

                That's so metal.

                God was knockin', and he wanted in bad...

                • by Kazymyr (190114)

                  God was knockin', and he wanted in bad...

                  Wham! Wham! Wham! Wham!

                  Glad I'm not the only Footfall fan out there.

        • by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Friday August 21, 2009 @12:54AM (#29143279)

          Its a little more complicated than that. The reason you use a lot more fuel to get out of the atmosphere than you use once you make orbit, even on interplanetary missions, is that you've got to carry all that fuel with you out of the atmosphere.

          Spacecraft sizing is like a Russian nesting doll. If you required a 4:1 ratio of propellant to spacecraft mass to get to the moon, and you were able to reduce it to 2:1 propellant ratio, you could get away with about half the launch vehicle because you don't need to launch all that propellant. The equations defining this (Tsiolkovsky's rocket equation) are all exponential with Delta-V.

          Now as you can imagine, doing a return trip is even harder... imagine a Mars sample return mission. You have to have enough fuel in Martian orbit to get your sample and re-entry vehicle from there back to Earth. You have to have enough fuel on the surface to get that fuel and the sample into orbit. This means you have to send all of that fuel to the surface in the first place (requiring more for the entry burns), and of course this defines the amount of fuel required to leave Earth and get to Mars, which in turn defines the size of the initial launch vehicle. Minimizing one of the steps is enough to fit the mission onto a much smaller LV. This is why concepts like using ion engines, leaving return vehicles in orbit (like in Apollo), and extracting fuel from the target (ISRU) are so important, even though the amounts of propellant are small compared to the initial LV.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nyeerrmm (940927)

        Treaties aren't natural law, they can be changed. I'd imagine you could get it amended to allow nuclear tests beyond a given distance (say GEO), particularly if you made it an international mission with Russia as a partner.

        And you're absolutely correct, a fission powered spacecraft would have no trouble with the atmospheric test ban treaty, since you're not detonating weapons above ground. The similarity between a fission reactor and a fusion bomb is about the same as the comparison between a gasoline eng

    • I was going to post the exact same thing. :-(

      It would be hard to use for launches today, because it'd fry some satellites, but check this [nextbigfuture.com] out, if you haven't seen it.

    • Unnecessarily Large Capsule.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion) [wikipedia.org]

    Of course this type of nuclear propulsion is just made of lulz, NERVA's are the way to go.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by camperdave (969942)
      What you really want is a gas core nuclear rocket [nuclearspace.com]. Because the core is gas, as opposed to solid or liquid, it cannot melt down. It can also reach higher operating temperatures, meaning more energy into the propellant.
      • by Cyberax (705495)

        It can not melt down, but it very well can disperse in its gaseous form. Right through your rocket's nozzles. And given that rockets are not noted for being very reliable, it'll be only a question of time.

        One possible idea to mitigate it: only use clean uranium fuel, this way the amount of fission by-products in the fallout will be minimized (uranium itself is not that nasty).

        • The article mentions several SCRAM modes, none of which emits any radioactive waste into the propellant stream. They also talk about launching from the middle of the Pacific, so there's no nearby populations in danger if a catastrophic failure were to happen on the launch pad.

          Keep in mind that there's no massive quantity of explosive fuel in this type of rocket. The propellant could even be seawater.
          • by Cyberax (705495)

            You have a heated uranium plasma, separated from rapidly flowing fuel only by a thin (thinner than in a lightbulb!) fused silica wall. All this is subjected to multi-G acceleration, pogo vibrations, malfunctions, etc. And don't forget than the maintenance of the reaction chamber will be quite difficult because of neutron-activated materials there.

            So, of course, it will be perfectly safe! Not.

            I'm about as pro-nuclear as it gets (even though I live less than 100 km from the infamous Chernobyl powerplant), but

            • I don't think that the fused silica bulb would need to be thinner than a light bulb. Fused silica is quite transparent, especially to UV rays. It also can withstand a great deal of heat. Nevertheless, I agree it won't be perfectly safe, but it would be a deuce of a lot safer than an Orion style pulsed nuclear drive, or a nuclear saltwater drive. However, the NIMBY folks aren't going to let any nuclear powered rocket get launched.

              Pity, because they could easily outlift any chemical rocket we could mak
              • by Cyberax (705495)

                UV-lightbulb has to be very thin, I did some calculations earlier (about 2 years ago when I first saw nuclearspace.com site). It's transparent, but not entirely transparent and we're talking about multi-GW per square meter power densities.

                Even with a very thin lightbulb it'll still be near the limits of possibility.

                So I think we'll need something like launch loops space planes to leave the atmosphere.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rakishi (759894)

      Actually, Orion is downright sane compared to something like a nuclear salt-water rocket [wikipedia.org].

      It's like Orion with a single continuous nuclear explosion. Inside the ship.

  • Welcome to the Moon! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pjt48108 (321212) <pjt48108NO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday August 20, 2009 @06:50PM (#29140563) Homepage

    As much of a fan of NASA as I am (and have been, since the mid-70s), I am seriously beginning to doubt the agency's ability to get back into the business of taking big trips. Even if NASA gets us back to the moon, we're likely to be greeted by the Chinese, or some commercial operation's management (welcome to Bigelow at Tranquility!).

    It seems almost silly to be developing a return to space program, when commercial space is doing the same thing, for less money, and is closer to actually ACHIEVING it.

    • by jamstar7 (694492) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @06:57PM (#29140649)

      As much of a fan of NASA as I am (and have been, since the mid-70s), I am seriously beginning to doubt the agency's ability to get back into the business of taking big trips. Even if NASA gets us back to the moon, we're likely to be greeted by the Chinese, or some commercial operation's management (welcome to Bigelow at Tranquility!).

      It seems almost silly to be developing a return to space program, when commercial space is doing the same thing, for less money, and is closer to actually ACHIEVING it.

      Funny you should mention this [newscientist.com]. Per this source, American manned space flight is in serious doubt. If true, I'd say even unmanned American space flight is in jeopardy as well. Why buy space toys when you can buy votes?

      • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday August 20, 2009 @07:56PM (#29141243) Homepage Journal

        Uh huh. The news reporting on the HSF review committee has been horrid. The committee has the duty of reporting the options to Congress and the President. Some of those options are affordable, some of them are not, and doing all of some of them isn't affordable either. The mouth breather journalists don't understand the discussion so they latch onto the word "budget" and write a the-sky-is-falling article.

        The cheapest option, that no-one is considering btw, is to just give SpaceX the $300m for crew transfer to LEO that they were promised and wait 2.5 years, then pay $20m/seat.. if you want to spend a little more, buy seats from the Russians at $53m/seat. If you want to spend a little more, keep flying the shuttle beyond the current manifest (and hope it doesn't explode). If you want to placate your international partners, keep flying the ISS until 2020, by then it'll be completely unusable, but hey. And after doing *all* that you'll have some money left over to launch an unnecessarily large capsule towards the Moon. But just forget about Mars for now because we don't have the skill or the technology (just don't tell Zubrin that).
         

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by khallow (566160)

          The cheapest option, that no-one is considering btw, is to just give SpaceX the $300m for crew transfer to LEO that they were promised and wait 2.5 years, then pay $20m/seat.

          It's not the cheapest option, if they can't deliver. They haven't even launched the Falcon 9 yet. I don't believe this magic 2.5 year claim that keeps surfacing like a mushroom. No offense to SpaceX, but they need to demonstrate first that they can launch people into space reliably before they'll be servicing the ISS.

        • The cheapest option, that no-one is considering btw, is to just give SpaceX the $300m for crew transfer to LEO

          Actually, it has been discussed by the committee. It is the commercial option for launching humans to LEO suggested in several of their presentations; and, SpaceX is specifically mentioned as a viable option

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Darkness404 (1287218)
      The problem is NASA has a ton of data that is of course funded by -our- tax dollars but is locked away, lost (remember the moon tapes?), forgotten, or otherwise not allowed for everyone to see. Because of this either A) All info NASA has researched should be released to all US citizens (unlikely due to the similarities between ICBMs and spacecraft, though philosophically ideal) B) NASA releases most of its information to US contractors (Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Virgin US, etc) to get commercial spacecraft o
    • by mrsquid0 (1335303)

      This is because NASA is badly underfunded for the current lunar programme. At least now there has been a public acknowledgement of that by the Augustine Commission, so perhaps something will be done about it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Kratisto (1080113)
      While NASA is plainly losing its edge, we shouldn't be so quick to turn to commercial means of space travel. Corporations are ultimately concerned only with turning a profit, not with the exploration of the Universe. We need NASA to be a science and research-centric agency. I don't want to live in a world where I must pay for the Hubble's incredible images, or one in which the Hubble doesn't exist at all due to a lack of profitability. If NASA were to end their manned missions program, I wouldn't shed a
      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        While NASA is plainly losing its edge, we shouldn't be so quick to turn to commercial means of space travel. Corporations are ultimately concerned only with turning a profit, not with the exploration of the Universe. We need NASA to be a science and research-centric agency.

        The problem is that the current NASA has largely cut back on science and R&D, instead spending the money on trying to build rockets to compete with the commercial sector. What many are suggesting NASA do (including the White House's Augustine Committee) is purchase from the commercial sector for sending cargo (and eventually people) to orbit instead of building its own transportation system, so that NASA can use the money to focus on actual science and exploration beyond LEO.

        Your comment is actually a l

        • What many are suggesting NASA do (including the White House's Augustine Committee) is purchase from the commercial sector for sending cargo (and eventually people) to orbit instead of building its own transportation system, so that NASA can use the money to focus on actual science and exploration beyond LEO.
          Perhaps more important is having MULTIPLE sources of launching, living, lunar access, etc. Ideally, we need to limit monopolies and count on competition to work. And this can actually LOWER the costs a
    • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @10:46PM (#29142477) Journal
      Even if NASA gets us back to the moon, we're likely to be greeted by the Chinese, or some commercial operation's management (welcome to Bigelow at Tranquility!).

      We had 5 long years in which W and 3 years of neo-cons, as well as 2 years of both parties elected to underfund NASA. Now that we are in SERIOUS economic jepordy, we need to decide WHO we want to meet on the moon; The Chinese OR one of our companies. With Chinese military putting multiple space stations up there (and 1 civilian spacecraft), I think I would rather meet western companies. I have been saying for a long time that we must provide more funding for these companies ESP. Bigelow as well as Armadillo and blue origin. Bigelow is able to provide not just a local space station, but also a living quarters to move between here and the moon. All that it needs it a tug. Likewise, it can provide living quarters on the moon. Importantly, Bigelow WANTS to do this and is funding it. Armadillo and Blue origin have the PERFECT crafts for working on the moon. If we really want to get there SOONER, rather than latter, we will have to have the gov work with private enterprise to build these. That means that we need 1-2 billion to flow to these companies NOW. Fortunately, Augustine sees this and will be pushing it.
      So, what do we need?
      1. First, spend some more money on getting launchers into space. We need it for cargo AND humans.
      2. Once started, they need a place to go in addition, to NASA to make money. That means that we need to get another space station or two up there. Buy a bigelow sundancer and attach it to the ISS, followed by a BA-330. Use the Sundancer for storage. This will allow Bigelow to start the production line.
      3. To get to the moon as well as GEO cheaply and constantly, we need a tug and fuel depot. Come up with specs for tugs that can work our orbit and another for lunar work (perhaps the same, but I do not think so). The orbital tugs can clean up OUR junk in orbit. Ideally, other nations and companies will pay to clean up their junk.
      4. Pay Armadillo and Blue origin to get working systems to land and take off from the moon. That should be far less than what we paid for COTs.

      Basically, with 1-2 Billion NOW, we can be back on the moon BEFORE 2015.

    • by Nyeerrmm (940927) on Friday August 21, 2009 @01:07AM (#29143341)

      I don't think you can count on corporations to do pure scientific exploration, as there is little profit in it initially. I think you'll always need the government there to perform the "Lewis and Clark" role.

      NASA's problem is that it isn't trying to just do the exploration, they're trying to do every single part of it. Space launch is well-enough developed at this point that they should be using commercial offerings at fixed contract prices to get to orbit, and then doing the high-risk exploration thing from there. Anything else is like asking Lewis and Clark to design their own canoe before heading off down the river.

      The inefficient cost-plus contracts made sense in Apollo: it was a high-risk, low-reward game at the time. But now that we now its possible to get to orbit, and that there are many profitable reasons to do so, it makes no sense for NASA to develop its own LV... especially after its proven that its so inept at it without much larger budgets.

      • by feronti (413011)

        Interestingly (and off-topic), Lewis and Clark did design their own canoe... a folding cast-iron boat:

        "In February 1803 Congress approved Jefferson's request to fund an expedition. By mid-March Lewis was on his way from Washington DC, to the US Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, in present-day West Virginia, to gather military hardware for the trip.........."

        "Lewis also wanted the arsenal workers to do him a special favor. He asked them to build a collapsible iron-framed boat he designed himself. Lewis referred to t

    • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Friday August 21, 2009 @03:14AM (#29143871) Journal

      I am seriously beginning to doubt the agency's ability to get back into the business of taking big trips.

      Spirit? Oppertunity? There have been NASA build robots trundling around on Mars for several years! Their ability of the people and teams at NASA is not the problem. The problem is inteference from higher managment and the legislature wanting their pound of flesh. This problem is shared among many of the national labs (especially Los Alamos). The people doing the good work are generally there for the love of science and engineering. The people running in it for themselves.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by lxs (131946)

        NASA rockets. Designed by robots for robots. Don't accept cheap imitations.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by johannesg (664142)

      As much of a fan of NASA as I am (and have been, since the mid-70s), I am seriously beginning to doubt the agency's ability to get back into the business of taking big trips. Even if NASA gets us back to the moon, we're likely to be greeted by the Chinese, or some commercial operation's management (welcome to Bigelow at Tranquility!).

      It seems almost silly to be developing a return to space program, when commercial space is doing the same thing, for less money, and is closer to actually ACHIEVING it.

      How can commercial entities, who have so far demonstrated only toy rockets, possibly be closer to achieving space flight than NASA, who demonstrated that capability decades ago and has since done it countless times? If it were so easy for commercial entities to do this, why aren't the skies bustling with commercial space stations and commercial flights?

      You are arguing to stop investing _before_ there is a credible alternative. The only result of that will be the total loss of access to space for your countr

      • by savuporo (658486)
        Which commercial toy rockets do you refer to ? Delta IV, Ariane 5, Atlas V, Zenit or Proton ?

        Do you want to compare these toys to spectacular successes of NASA-designed NASP, X-33, X-34, X-38, 2GRLV , Shuttle-II ?
        • by johannesg (664142)

          Which commercial toy rockets do you refer to ? Delta IV, Ariane 5, Atlas V, Zenit or Proton ?

          Do you want to compare these toys to spectacular successes of NASA-designed NASP, X-33, X-34, X-38, 2GRLV , Shuttle-II ?

          Delta 4, Atlas 5: paid for by US taxpayers.
          Ariane 5: paid for by european taxpayers.
          Zenit, Proton: paid for by USSR taxpayers.

          It is not commercial development if it is the taxpayer footing the bill. Show me a company that invested its own money.

          • by FleaPlus (6935)

            It is not commercial development if it is the taxpayer footing the bill. Show me a company that invested its own money.

            You're missing the point. Even if development is non-commercial, what's important is the procurement process. NASA's big problem is using cost-plus contracts for procurement, rather than competitive fixed-price contracts.

            • by Tycho (11893)

              Off the top of my head, I wouldn't want to be on a space-flight where a less expensive, less capable part was used in order to save money. I would also not want to end up free-falling into the Atlantic for the want of a more reliable $500 part. This is where SpaceX and other companies offering low cost space flight get it wrong, using cheap, off the shelf, parts may work for cars and even small single engine aircraft, but they are not reliable or robust enough for large commercial aircraft and especially

              • by FleaPlus (6935)

                Off the top of my head, I wouldn't want to be on a space-flight where a less expensive, less capable part was used in order to save money.

                You're making a massive logic error with your assumption that a part which is more expensive is somehow inherently more capable and safe. Do you also apply that logic to automobiles and airplanes?

                You should consider applying for a job at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center upper management. You'd fit right in!

                This is where SpaceX and other companies offering low cost space flight get it wrong, using cheap, off the shelf, parts may work for cars and even small single engine aircraft, but they are not reliable or robust enough for large commercial aircraft and especially not for use in space flight.

                That's a cute example, but do you have any examples of off-the-shelf parts being used which are less than aerospace quality? For that matter, do you have an example from any time in the entire history of

      • NASA doesn't build the rockets. They have an army of contractors who build them. Sure, they assemble the shuttle in the VAB; but, the components were almost exclusively all built by someone, not NASA. The shuttle orbiter itself was built by Rockwell and Boeing.

        The reason you've not seen a commercial entity launching big rockets, is there's no money in it. The money is, right now, in participating as the contractors to the government which supply the components for the big rocket. IF the economic model

      • How can commercial entities, who have so far demonstrated only toy rockets, possibly be closer to achieving space flight than NASA

        Huh? Maybe you should look up who builds the Atlas [lockheedmartin.com] and Delta [boeing.com] boosters. Commercial entities have been flying rockets, *big* rockets, for decades.

        • by johannesg (664142)

          Guys, you are all making the same mistake: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Arianespace and all those others did not invest their own money to build its own launchers, they were all paid for by national agencies. Without that investment we wouldn't have _any_ heavy launchers at this time.

          When you say that NASA needs to stop wasting money on launchers, what you are saying is that it needs to stop paying those companies for providing launchers. Because that is the _only_ thing that NASA does: it hands out contracts t

      • by FleaPlus (6935)

        How can commercial entities, who have so far demonstrated only toy rockets, possibly be closer to achieving space flight than NASA, who demonstrated that capability decades ago and has since done it countless times?

        What are you talking about? The commercial entities launch many (large and small) rockets every year, many times more often than NASA:

        http://www.spaceflightnow.com/tracking/launchlog.html [spaceflightnow.com]

  • What's the point of advertising missions to the ISS? The ISS is supposedly being decommissioned a little more than a year after the first manned test flights of Orion begin.

    • The political reality is that this is very unlikely to happen.

      The US has proposed de-orbiting it in 2016, because we are spending $1.5B/year in support of it's operations (not including the shuttle launches); and, given NASA's current budget, they long ago admitted they could not continue to support the ISS and meet their other objectives.

      We are only part owner (a major part) of the ISS. Russia laid the cornerstone, Zarya, along with the US module, Unity. Russia, Japan, Canada, ESA (representing severa

  • Wow! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @07:17PM (#29140891) Journal
    A company has issued a press release that speaks of its product in complimentary terms and suggests that we should buy more.

    Shocking.
  • Recycled Rocketry (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @07:40PM (#29141103) Journal

    A relevant piece of a recently submitted and rejected article on lessons from post-Apollo to Orion/Constellation. There were many suggestions on Apollo derivatives and follow ups, but only Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz made the cut. Many more could have flown. That fact in itself is a valuable lesson -- build for adaptability.

    "With the Apollo 11 lunar landing nostalgia wave over, and the ongoing discussions about keeping, changing or abandoning designs and plans for Constellation, the new Ares rocket and the very Apollo-looking Orion crew vehicle, it is interesting to examine the development, evolution (including evolutionary dead ends) and the many never-were projected possibilities for the Apollo and Saturn components. Encyclopedia Astronautica offers a feast of details about Apollo developments, both successes and failure, in The Apollo Development Diaries http://www.astronautix.com/articles/apoaries.htm [astronautix.com] . Plans for the vehicles were later not so much lost as is claimed now, but were abandoned as unfeasible, unnecessary, and in the cases of some such as the high jumping Lunar Leaper and slithering Lunar Worm vehicles, just too weird http://www.astronautix.com/craftfam/apollo.htm [astronautix.com] .

    As for the actual Lockheed Martin piece referenced in TFA, it's pure PR. But since they feel the need to waive their flag, perhaps there are rumbles from within NASA that they might consider alternatives.

    • A relevant piece of a recently submitted and rejected article on lessons from post-Apollo to Orion/Constellation. There were many suggestions on Apollo derivatives and follow ups, but only Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz made the cut. Many more could have flown. That fact in itself is a valuable lesson -- build for adaptability.

      That's more like a badly learned lesson, as Apollo was more than sufficiently adaptable to the tasks demanded of it. Skylab made the cut because it could use hardware made surplus by cancel

  • I've never understood this. We should be out there en masse by now. You want to do something about world hunger? How about a way to shrink the populace? That's right folks! Train the homeless to live and work in SPACE!!!!! Then send them to places we might be interested in living, or can make money from exploiting! What a concept eh? Too bad it isn't original. The Americas, Australia, New Zealand, all started with prisoners, the homeless, and other social malcontents. I think we are due for yet another cul
    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      While I'm all for expanding the frontier and moving more people into orbit (I'm heavily involved in a couple of advocacy groups, pursuing a master's degree in aerospace engineering, and job hunting specifically in the space industry), I don't think that space colonies could ever provide that kind of overpopulation escape valve.

      Even with a working space elevator, you would be limited to thousands of persons to orbit per day. That's far fewer than the hundred-thousand new persons we have on Earth every day (

  • by Pvt_Waldo (459439) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @08:06PM (#29141339)

    The idea of a SDV (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuttle-Derived_Launch_Vehicle [wikipedia.org]) seems a lot better idea to me than this massive new launcher. Builds on known technology, a lot less up-front cost, fewer unknowns, etc.

    To me, these "other uses" are simply PR that's trying to salvage a program concept that's in deep trouble.

    • The idea of a SDV (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuttle-Derived_Launch_Vehicle [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org]) seems a lot better idea to me than this massive new launcher. Builds on known technology, a lot less up-front cost, fewer unknowns, etc.

      A clarification: Orion is a capsule, not a launcher. NASA's current launcher is the Ares I, which has been having some major development problems (and many say fundamental design flaws), and looking likely to be cancelled. However, the Orion can also potentially be launched on a Shuttle-Derived Vehicle, or even a commercial launcher.

      • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX_Dragon [wikipedia.org]

        Or cut Orion and just give SpaceX $40 million a launch. With that kind of money other companies could be formed that would compete with SpaceX for the contract of launching cargo and manned missions.

      • by Pvt_Waldo (459439)

        Good point. The Orion itself is a nice little pod for sending up a group of people. The catch is getting that little pod up there! And as another poster points out, there's the Dragon module.

    • The idea of a SDV (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuttle-Derived_Launch_Vehicle [wikipedia.org]) seems a lot better idea to me than this massive new launcher.

      Indeed! Stick the shuttle engines on the bottom. Put the Orion capsule on the top, and voila [wikipedia.org], a simple, cheap Shuttle Derived Launch Vehicle. The bulk of the systems are already human rated, and there are parts for several of these rockets ready to go. No need to retool any factories. No need to build new crawlers and crawlerways. No need for a new barge.
    • The idea of a SDV (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuttle-Derived_Launch_Vehicle [wikipedia.org] [wikipedia.org]) seems a lot better idea to me than this massive new launcher

      You know that the "massive new launcher" is the Ares series listed on the page you linked to, right?

    • by khallow (566160)
      Using currently existing (or near future) commercial launch capability for manned space flight seems more interesting to me. Namely, the Delta IV Heavy, Atlas V Heavy, and Falcon 9.
  • by actionbastard (1206160) on Thursday August 20, 2009 @08:28PM (#29141523)
    The Orion spacecraft is not the problem with the current NASA Constellation program. The Ares I launch vehicle is. It does not have the lifting capability, among other problems, to meet the goals of the program so they keep cutting back on the capability of the one thing that its supposed to lift to orbit, the Orion crew capsule.
  • I thought they were ripping off the Apollo program, seems like they are going to end up copying Gemini.....

    • by jpmorgan (517966)
      They're not doing either, they're doing something far more interesting. Orion is a simple capsule, and in that sense it's similar to Gemini. But the point of Orion is that it's a lot more flexible than any previous space capsule. Apollo got to the moon by assembling the entire capsule, lander and earth departure stage on earth and putting them on top of a giant rocket. Constellation promises to produce another giant rocket (Ares V), but you no longer have to cram everything onto the top of it because you ca
      • I don't Orion is very different from Apollo in that respect. Apollo orbital missions were launched without the Saturn V. The CSM-LM cluster was assembled on the way to the moon. Apollo serviced skylab successfully.

  • This is the Orion spacecraft they *SHOULD* be building:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion [wikipedia.org]

    It's not only cool because it was quite a developed idea, and feasible, but because it was delightfully absurd.
  • Yeah, let's waste another 40 years fucking around in Low Earth Orbit. NASA needs to hire the Duke Nukem team to help them get their useless asses in gear. The Duke wankers only spent 10 years pulling their pricks. That makes them four times less worthless than NASA.

  • The real mission for an Orion style spacecraft is to defend against aliens from Alpha Centauri, who come via Saturn.

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