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NASA Picks 5 Firms To Work On LEO Tech 116

Posted by timothy
from the quasi-private-at-best dept.
Gary W. Longsine writes "Five contracts have been awarded by NASA today, to firms exploring different aspects of the effort to develop a private launch industry for people to low earth orbit. Today's winners include: Sierra Nevada Corp (aka 'SpaceDev') for the Dream Chaser; Boeing in cooperation with Bigelow on a capsule design; United Launch Alliance (Boeing and Lockheed Martin) to explore safety issues related to upgrading Atlas and Delta rockets to human flight safety standards; Blue Origin to build a launch escape system; and Paragon Space Development Corp for 'air vitalization' (aka life support). Will the forecast $6 Billion allocation over five years be enough to inspire private industry to develop not one, but two human rated launch systems (a capsule, and the lifting body Dream Chaser)? NASA clearly wants competition in the private market, so they seek more than one vendor."
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NASA Picks 5 Firms To Work On LEO Tech

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  • Re:LEO (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @03:53PM (#31013980)
    When the context is getting people into space near Earth, it's understood to mean Low Earth Orbit. Hand over your geek card.
  • Re:LEO (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @03:53PM (#31013982) Homepage

    Unless you're talking about space, where it is usually associated with Low Earth Orbit.

    If there were only some contextual clue as to which acronym expansion was appropriate. If only...

  • by camperdave (969942) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @04:24PM (#31014322) Journal
    Um... The Falcon 9 is being assembled at Cape Canaveral right now, in preparation for it's first launch in early March. It was designed as a crew lift vehicle from the outset, so it is "man-rated".
  • Re:A new capsule... (Score:3, Informative)

    by rijrunner (263757) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @04:35PM (#31014454)

        Umm. The Augustine Commission report clearly states that Orion is overdesigned and should be scaled back and that EELV-derivatives would significantly reduce the costs of development, they just felt it may have been too late for that. That part was a judgement call on whether you wanted to keep funding or bite the bullet. The Boeing capsule listed is the Orion scaled properly to existing vehicles. It isn't like we have a bunch of Orion capsules sitting around and going to get thrown away. They are years away from bending hardware. There is also the matter that Constellation and how Griffin handled it was the real fly in the ointment. The capsule/EELV was the design that was originally approved for the ELV program under O'Keefe and that was trashed by Griffin and they had to restart from scratch. They have several years worth of design already done for the exact configuration awarded this contract.

        Even if the capsule set the design back a year, so what? The full scale Orion on Ares would not be flying until 2016, or so. By designing to existing launchers, we can eliminate the delays caused by concurrently designing a launch vehicle and capsule. If it takes 4 years to design a capsule, it'll still fly long before NASA managed to launch Ares and Orion.

        When you consider the differences in scale, you are not talking a significant change. The aerodynamic modeling is easily scaled, the command, navigation, and control aspects are also pretty much the same. The materials are pretty much the same. When you get right down to it, the setback in time is pretty minimal as they had not even finalized the launch weight on Orion yet as it had to keep adjusting for design changes in Ares. By having a sitting target to shoot at (the existing payload capabilities/requirements on EELV-derivatives are fixed), they will likely actually finish the design faster than waiting to see what those parameters on Ares would really turn out to be.

  • by mosb1000 (710161) <mosb1000@mac.com> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @04:38PM (#31014500)

    Man-rated means that NASA has certified it's use it to launch people into space. Space X is developing the dragon module to launch crews and cargoes into space with the F9, but that doesn't make the rocket Man-rated [wikipedia.org]. I think it's understandable that NASA has chosen the Atlas V over the Falcon 9, given that the Atlas V has been launched 19 times with a near-perfect success rate.

  • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @05:17PM (#31014956)

    I think it's understandable that NASA has chosen the Atlas V over the Falcon 9, given that the Atlas V has been launched 19 times with a near-perfect success rate.

    It should be noted, for reference, that Shuttle had flown 24 times with a perfect record before Challenger failed.

    It should also be noted that Shuttle carried crews on each of those launches, unlike Atlas V.

  • Re:Yarrrr (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @06:54PM (#31016290)

    A potato chip tossed out of an orbiting spacecraft is an 18,500 mph weapon of mass destruction to anyone in a crossing orbit. Any treaty banning weapons in space is meaningless. All you need is the capability to get to space and you have a weapon.

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