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NASA Space Transportation Science Technology

NASA Outlines "Flagship" Technology Demonstrations 27

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-don't-see-giant-laser-beam-on-there dept.
FleaPlus writes "As part of its new plans, NASA has outlined the initial series of large-scale 'flagship' technology demonstration (FTD) missions for developing and testing technologies needed for sustainable beyond-Earth exploration, complementing the smaller-scale ETDD missions outlined previously. The first four FTD missions (costing $400M-$1B each, about the cost of the recent Ares I-X suborbital rocket launch) are scheduled to launch between 2014 and 2016, demonstrating advanced in-space propulsion (next-generation ion propulsion and solar arrays), in-space propellant transfer and storage, a lightweight/inflatable mission module at the ISS (which will also test closed-loop life support), and an inflatable aeroshell for aerocapture at Mars. A multi-purpose robotic rendezvous and docking vehicle will also be developed to support these missions."
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NASA Outlines "Flagship" Technology Demonstrations

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  • by Larson2042 (1640785) on Friday May 21, 2010 @05:10PM (#32299856)
    Instead of blowing money on re-inventing the wheel, except much more expensively... *cough* Ares-1
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Brett Buck (811747)

      And the first one that goes in the drink, blows up, or otherwise fails, people will jump all over them for wasting millions of dollars on some pie-in-the-sky experiment instead of using proven approaches.

      • by Larson2042 (1640785) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:38PM (#32300826)
        Proven approaches to what? Orbital fuel depots and refueling, inflatable aero shells, tens of kW electric propulsion for manned missions, and inflatable habitats don't have proven approaches yet. That's the whole point of these kinds of programs. The only way NASA will be able to stay with "proven approaches" is to remain in LEO and build carbon-copy ISSs. Even then, I remain far from convinced that what NASA does today should be considered a "proven approach" to manned spaceflight. While they've done some amazing things, human spaceflight still remains rare and hideously expensive. I would prefer that not be the approach to such matters going into the future.
        • by Tekfactory (937086) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @12:18AM (#32302834) Homepage

          I totally agree with new approaches and new development. But I want to mention two things you might not be aware of.

          Bigelow Aerospace has flown 2 inflatable Habitats since 2006. The foam they are made of was originally developed for the ISS, and tech transferred to a private company to develop it further.
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigelow_Aerospace [wikipedia.org]
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TransHab [wikipedia.org]
          Heck their Sundancer manned habitat might BE the tech demonstrator for inflatable habitats.

          The VASIMR 200kw electric propulsion system tested on the ISS, can only run for 10 minutes on batteries that have to trickle charge because the ISS only has 110kw of solar power available.

          So while these things aren't man rated yet, I can see where the tech demonstrators for these would be quick to put together with little 'new' development time.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by sznupi (719324)

          Adding to what Tekfactory said, ISS regularly refuels in orbit. Heck, the docking interface of Progress has inbuilt means to transfer fuel.

      • When it comes to space flight, the public is awfully ignorant. Perhaps we should stop worrying about public opinion so damned much and start doing real work. The astronauts and other people in the programs who put their lives on the line for it understand what the risks are and what they are doing. This is too important to be left to public opinion.

        The irony here is that private space companies are more likely to succeed because they don't have to answer to the public as much as government

    • Instead of blowing money on re-inventing the wheel, except much more expensively...

      Lighweight, inflatable mission module...

      It seems to me I've heard something similar...Bungalow? Bigelow? Something like that...they've already had subscale testbeds in orbit for a couple or four years...

      Oh, and Bigelow's design is based on something done for NASA back in the '90's, I think.

      In other words, this is hardly ground-breaking new technology, but a rehashing of tech NASA was ordered to drop back when it turned

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        So NASA are helping a young technology company to test a hab design which, if it works, will save NASA money in the long term and increase in-space capability.

        And this is a bad thing, because?

        • So NASA are helping a young technology company to test a hab design which, if it works, will save NASA money in the long term and increase in-space capability.

          And this is a bad thing, because?

          Two things: the theme of NASA's announcement was that they were investing in new breakthrough technologies. Fifteen year old tech that NASA was working on in the '90's is hardly "new", much less "breakthrough".

          And Bigelow expects to have a full-scale unit in orbit next year or the year after. NASA isn't planning o

          • by FleaPlus (6935)

            What NASA should be looking at are things that are, well, new. Unproven. Requiring further development. Tried and true not so much. Investing in development of something that's already completed its development doesn't match up with that.

            In general, NASA's announcement of its new direction seems to be "we're dredging up a bunch of things that we think will be pretty easy (in one case, because it's already operational) so it looks like we're accomplishing something...."

            See my other comment. This announcement is only for testing relatively mature technologies in space, while other programs (e.g. NIAC, SBIR) are for more novel technologies:

            http://science.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1660882&cid=32300668 [slashdot.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They couldn't have really developed all of this since the announcement of the cancellation of the Constellation program.

    Seems more likely they just grabbed a bunch of already developed tech and slammed it together.

    On the plus side, the fact that they're actually focusing on this tech which I heard they were developing years years ago, at least for the ion propulsion and inflatable structures, shows that NASA is finalyl getting off their feet and working on them.

    • by FleaPlus (6935) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:23PM (#32300668) Journal

      They couldn't have really developed all of this since the announcement of the cancellation of the Constellation program.

      Seems more likely they just grabbed a bunch of already developed tech and slammed it together.

      On the plus side, the fact that they're actually focusing on this tech which I heard they were developing years years ago, at least for the ion propulsion and inflatable structures, shows that NASA is finalyl getting off their feet and working on them.

      Keep in mind all of these technologies have been on NASA's back-burner for a while (and most/all had their funding cut when Ares/Constellation started going over-budget). These "Flagship Technology Demonstrators" are also specifically targeted towards technologies which are already of mid-level maturity but have never been brought to the point that they could be tested in space before. There's a figure on page 2 of this document which does a pretty good job of explaining things:

      http://nspires.nasaprs.com/external/viewrepositorydocument/cmdocumentid=230964/Section1.pdf [nasaprs.com]

    •   I imagine they are relying on the private companies who have been developing this technology - such as Bigelow with inflatable habitats, and the numerous work on solar electric propulsion, etc. After all, it has already been stated that NASA will be relying on private companies a lot more.

      SB

  • by FleaPlus (6935) on Friday May 21, 2010 @06:26PM (#32300702) Journal

    Right after I made the submission, it looks like NASA released info on Commercial Crew Transportation and the Exploration Precursor Robotic Missions. I probably won't make a separate submission (although someone else is more than welcome to), but the new docs are pretty interesting:

    http://nspires.nasaprs.com/external/solicitations/solicitations.do?method=init&stack=push [nasaprs.com]

  • X Projects (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Only 14 posts? What's the matter with you guys? NASA is doing X Projects again and this is a Good Thing.

    One of the projects is for on-orbit storage and transfer of cryogenic propellants. I wonder if "cryogenic" has the traditional NASA meaning of "liquid hydrogen" or if it refers to easier-to-handle substances like LOX or liquid methane.

    Oh, and where's the love for VASIMR and aerospike engines?

    • by FleaPlus (6935)

      Oh, and where's the love for VASIMR and aerospike engines?

      I believe aerospike engines (and things like Thrust Augmented Nozzles) fall under the new Foundational Propulsion Research program:

      http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewsr.html?pid=34019 [spaceref.com]

      VASIMR falls under the high-power electric propulsion system project in the Enabling Technology Development and Demonstration (ETDD) program announced last week. I believe the plan is to test and mature VASIMR under that program until its ready to be fully tested on a Flagship Technology Demonstration mission:

      http://www.spaceref. [spaceref.com]

    • I was just about to make a similar post. We're at 19 posts so far. This is space exploration! If this isn't news for nerds, what is?

      p.s. Yes, I am kind of new here, but come on people! As I understand it, this sort of article used to actually generate discussion and got people excited.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        It seems this news piece showed up during Friday evening / night. We might at least pretend that we have better things to do then...

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