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NASA Space Science

Boeing Releases Details On New Crew Capsule 66

Posted by kdawson
from the spam-in-a-can dept.
FleaPlus writes "Boeing has released a number of new details on its CST-100 manned space capsule, being developed in collaboration with commercial space station builder Bigelow Aerospace. Competing with SpaceX's Dragon capsule, the vehicle is designed to be compatible with existing Atlas V, Delta IV, and Falcon 9 rockets, and is planned to carry seven people in a capsule 'a little smaller than Orion, but a little bigger than Apollo.' Funding was jump-started this year with $18M of fixed-price Commercial Crew Development money from NASA, which requires completion of several fabrication and demonstration milestones this year (heat shield, escape system, landing tests, etc.) in order to get the full payment."
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Boeing Releases Details On New Crew Capsule

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  • I suppose I should be embracing this as "competition is always good" (cost, etc) but it does seem kind of odd.

    • by AJWM (19027) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @01:29AM (#32707380) Homepage

      More like designing to a standard set of interfaces between launcher and spacecraft, which is indeed good. Just as Boeing's capsule can launch on Falcon 9 as well as Atlas V and Delta IV, then presumably SpaceX's Dragon capsule could be launched on an Atlas or Delta as well as a Falcon. If one component is ever grounded for an unforseen problem, you've got a fallback position.

      It's not even that odd. Having a second source for a critical subsystem makes a lot of sense, and savvy customers tend to encourage their vendors in this direction.

      • by someone1234 (830754) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @01:46AM (#32707412)

        >Having a second source for a critical subsystem makes a lot of sense, and savvy customers tend to encourage their vendors in this direction.

        It is not enough to be savvy, they need to be powerful customers who can avoid a vendor lock-in.
        It helps a lot if you are a customer who can set the standards because you are the only customer.

      • More like designing to a standard set of interfaces between launcher and spacecraft, which is indeed good. Just as Boeing's capsule can launch on Falcon 9 as well as Atlas V and Delta IV, then presumably SpaceX's Dragon capsule could be launched on an Atlas or Delta as well as a Falcon.

        These kind of standards are hard to come by, particularly when rocket manufacturers are slow to adapt to changing technologies as well. For example, the Falcon 9 is one of the first spaceflight vehicles designed from the ground up with TCP/IP as a major communications sub-system within the rocket itself. It would seem logical now but such a connection on most other rockets simply doesn't exist (RS-232 and variants is actually quite a bit more common).

        One area that has had at least some effort in terms of standardization has been developing a launch faring for satellite launches. Still, even for something as simple as a way to mount a spacecraft on the top of a rocket, there is unfortunately quite a bit of variation for how that is done. Added on top of that is an issue of docking standards, something that the ISS has been useful for at least in terms of "forcing" some sort of international standard to be developed even though there is a separate Russian and American standard.

        The largest problem with establishing a standard is to convince those involved that by sticking with the standard more can be accomplished instead of rolling your own specification. This is a problem for more than just spaceflight, but competing standards and specifications for spaceflight does add quite a bit to the cost and design of spacecraft. It is also something that government involvement can be used to not just establish but also mandate standards (in terms of requiring government purchased hardware to conform to specific standards).

        • by sznupi (719324) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @11:44AM (#32709494) Homepage

          Actually, both docking standards are sort of Russian ;p

          Apart from the one with obvious heritage, there's also APAS, used by Shuttle (and Shenzhou, btw) - with the first version designed by Soviets for use in Apollo-Soyuz project; first spacecraft equipped with it was Soyuz (Apollo carried an adapter).

          Next redesign was built for Buran, to use with Mir. Buran of course never flew to Mir, however...when the Shuttle was visiting there, it was carrying a docking collar designed for Buran. On hich current version is based.

  • by djupedal (584558) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @01:40AM (#32707402)
    ...Airbus just announced their competitor to Boeing's CST-100 spacecraft. "It's a little larger than Orion, and much bigger than Apollo," Osteltder said of the DTU-1000 spacecraft. "It carries eight, but it's not really that small – it's larger and more spacious than the Orion."
  • by Macrat (638047) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @02:38AM (#32707566)

    Apollo was barely big enough for 3. Something only a "little" bigger is supposed to hold 7?

    Do they sit on each other's laps?

    • by Ravenger (715905) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @02:49AM (#32707600)

      Apollo was designed to go to the moon - trips of ten days or more, and needed to carry all the consumables and equipment needed for the trip. The new capsule is designed for short duration flights to the space station, so presumably it won't need to carry lots of supplies and equipment, hence more space for crew.

      • by JustOK (667959) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @05:01AM (#32707990) Journal

        hence more space for crew.

        or more crew for space, whichever.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rickb928 (945187)

        The SM carried consumables like oxygen, propellant, fuel cells, which allowed Apollo to carry other consumables such as food, and of course return payload like lunar rocks, film, etc... These are not needed as much for a ferry to the ISS, so a slightly-larger-than-Apollo capsule could carry quite a few passengers. Mess around with the seating arrangements, and you could fit 7 into a similar capsule. Of course it would be a double-decker, probably, but that works.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Electronics technology has come a long way since Apollo, too. The computers and instruments can probably be a lot smaller than before, which would allow more space for humans.
    • by Morty (32057) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @03:19AM (#32707702) Journal

      Thanks to squares and cubes, a small increase in capsule diameter gives a big increase in floor surface area and total volume. Also, Apollo trips were to the moon and back, which made the time between stops somewhat longer, so it needed to carry more food, water, etc.

      The bigger surprise is that the CST-100 will seat 7 astronauts while the larger Orion was only designed for 6. TFA says that CST-100 will be "less spacious" than Orion, which probably is code for "astronauts will be packed like sardines."

      • by strack (1051390)
        well, its not like they need a steering wheel and airbags in there. there gonna spend all of what, 30mins to a hour in there before they dock?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by sznupi (719324)

          Times en route to rendezvous are typically in the range of two days or so. That's still short enough, I guess, for people to not go crazy; having in their mind a specious space station to which they will dock.

          • As specious as most spell-checkers.
      • Also, Apollo trips were to the moon and back, which made the time between stops somewhat longer, so it needed to carry more food, water, etc.

        That seems to make sense, until you realize a moon trip was around 8 days (Apollo 11, first one that I checked). With NASA's distaste for loosing astronauts, I'd be willing to bet the specifications call for a week's supply of essentials in case of a problem after launch. If for some reason they couldn't get to the space station, or couldn't dock, the crew would have

    • . . . So there is more room inside than the outside size.

      Probably.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Sehnsucht (17643)

        That would be TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension(s) In Space), turn in your geek card.

    • The Skylab Rescue Mission [wikipedia.org] used the Apollo capsule to seat at least five astronaut. Yes, it is cramped and would not be an ideal situation for a long-term mission, but it does work and the standard Apollo capsule could hold more than just the standard three astronauts.

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <(fairwater) (at) (gmail.com)> on Sunday June 27, 2010 @09:57AM (#32708920) Homepage

      Apollo was barely big enough for 3. Something only a "little" bigger is supposed to hold 7?
       
      Do they sit on each other's laps?

      Actually, they do practically sit in each others laps. Most people don't realize that beneath the couches of the Apollo command module was more-or-less open space [wikimedia.org] - the crew slept down there during flight. Using this space to carry people was first planned back in the 1970's when they modified one command module into the Skylab rescue configuration [nasa.gov].
       
      So yes, making the capsule just a little taller and a little wider enlarges the crew compartment enough to pack in seven seats.
       
      The previous posters are partly wrong on supply weight and volume though though: First, the majority of the supplies in the capsule were carried at the astronauts feet in the Lower Equipment Bay (the astronauts actually sat off center in the spacecraft), and you'll need almost the same amount for a station taxi. (The Apollo's configuration was to control the center of gravity, offsetting it controlled re-entry attitude and allowed the spacecraft the limited ability to 'fly' a non ballistic trajectory during re-entry. Almost certainly the station taxi will do the same.) There were also considerable supplies carried in the service module.
       
      Supplies save less than you might think because of the increase in crew size. Both will require roughly 42 person days of supplies - 3 crew times 14 days for Apollo, 7 crew times 6 days for the new module. Yes, six days. Two days to fly to the station, two days to fly from the station to re-entry, and two days for contingencies. (No, you can't shorten the fly to or fly home portions, those are dictated by orbital mechanics.)
       
      Considerable weight savings will also come from the the weight reduction in the electrical and electronic systems in the past forty or fifty odd years. (The Apollo guidance system, which weighed a couple of hundred pounds, would weigh less than ten today.)
       
      But real biggie in terms of weight savings will be in the thinner heat shield (Apollo's needed to be able to stand a high velocity return from the moon, which a station taxi will not). Additional weight can be saved by using modern materials (composites, AL/Li alloys, etc.) for structural components. More weight can also be saved by shrinking the propulsion system - a station taxi has no need to brake itself into lunar orbit or blast itself free from the same.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        Looks even better when colorised [wikimedia.org], gives the imppression (true or not, nvm) that two crew members are sitting essentially in a drawer ;)

        (I still wouldn't mind, certainly not with the perspective of docking to a spacious station)

      • by Zak3056 (69287)

        Supplies save less than you might think because of the increase in crew size. Both will require roughly 42 person days of supplies - 3 crew times 14 days for Apollo, 7 crew times 6 days for the new module. Yes, six days. Two days to fly to the station, two days to fly from the station to re-entry, and two days for contingencies. (No, you can't shorten the fly to or fly home portions, those are dictated by orbital mechanics.)

        If you assume you can re-provision at the ISS, then you could cut the supplies in ha

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by espiesp (1251084)

          Re-Provision at the ISS?

          Where do you figure the ISS gets it's supplies from anyhow? Aliens?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)
            ISS gets most of its consumables from unmanned Russian Progress [wikipedia.org] capsules. Once the Shuttle stops flying, Progress will be ISS' only resupply. Orion was never intended to resupply consumables to ISS, although it was planned to use it for some (pressurized) scientific material ferrying. An (Orion-like) ISS crew-exchange vehicle resupplying two days of food and oxygen from ISS stores isn't as far-fetched as it immediately sounds, considering per-pound launch costs on a man-rated pressurized vehicle (Orion/CS
            • by AJWM (19027) on Sunday June 27, 2010 @02:20PM (#32710406) Homepage

              ISS gets most of its consumables from unmanned Russian Progress capsules. Once the Shuttle stops flying, Progress will be ISS' only resupply.

              Not quite. There's also the European ATV, the first of which, Jules Verne, flew in 2008. It has about three times the capacity of a Progress. Oh, and Progress is pressurized, being basically the hull of a Soyuz. It just doesn't have a full life-support system. You may be thinking of the replaced re-entry module, which on Soyuz is of course pressurized but on Progress contains fuel tankage (routed externally so that a leak will not contaminate station atmosphere).

              • Yeah; I rethought the wording right after I posted. Obviously, Progress is air-tight, (and therefore) pressurized at 1 atm when sealed. So, technically pressurized, just nothing on-board to repressurize with. But you are correct, I did forget to mention the single ATV-001 [wikipedia.org] mission. Luckily, ISS isn't (yet) depending on ATV, or they'd have had to abandon ISS years ago.
          • by Zak3056 (69287)

            Where do you figure the ISS gets it's supplies from anyhow? Aliens?

            I rather think how the ISS is supplied is not important in terms of this conversation. Simple fact is that you don't have to carry the supplies for a trip back with you, you can send them up ahead of time and collect them before returning.

        • If you assume you can re-provision at the ISS, then you could cut the supplies in half.

          That would take storage space on ISS (which is limited) and cargo delivery upmass (which is very limited). You also have the problem of transferring water from the ISS to the capsule and topping off the oxygen tanks. It also makes the logistics pipeline more complicated.

          So I don't think designers of the capsule would assume that. (And I expect the specifications would ground rule it out anyhow.)

      • Well, Boeing are the experts in the art of cramming as many people into as small a space as possible - just look at their passenger jets =D
    • by caseih (160668)

      Apollo was actually large enough to fit 5 astronauts in a pinch, so that the crew of the skylab space station could be rescued.

      http://history.nasa.gov/SP-400/p104.htm [nasa.gov]

    • by AJWM (19027)

      Apollo was barely big enough for 3. Something only a "little" bigger is supposed to hold 7?

      Back in Apollo's heyday, when there were a lot of follow-on projects being proposed based on Apollo hardware, there was a design for a six-seat Apollo module.

      Do they sit on each other's laps?

      More or less (grin). The design called for a second tier of three seats below the existing three (there was actually a fair bit of room back there). I think the result would still have given each astronaut a little more room tha

      • I think the result would still have given each astronaut a little more room than the Gemini capsule had, but not by much.

        It's more than you get in coach on US Airways, anyhow.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CaptDeuce (84529)

      Apollo was barely big enough for 3. Something only a "little" bigger is supposed to hold 7?

      As others have pointed out, there was room in the Apollo space craft in the lower bay (i.e, under the seats) that could "snugly" fit two additional astronauts. The amount of supplies would offer little space savings since the majority of consumables (water and oxygen) were provided by the Service Module [wikipedia.org]. Food did not take up much space since it was all dehydrated. The water was generated as a byproduct of the fue

  • by nametaken (610866) * on Sunday June 27, 2010 @03:24AM (#32707718)

    "Bigelow Aerospace"?

    I realize I represent the lowest common denominator here, but this reminds me of bad Rob Schneider movies.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Teancum (67324)

      While I get the reference here, what seems to be your problem with Bigelow Aerospace? That the company seems to have taken over the U.S. Air Force's "Operation Blue Book", or that they don't seem credible in terms of building spacecraft?

      Of anybody who is sending stuff into space, they are the only American company that has any recent experience in actually building and launching a spacecraft capable of supporting a manned spaceflight. SpaceX is working on the Dragon, but it has only one "test flight" and

  • That is a spacecraft sir, we do not refer to it as a capsule.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Artifakt (700173)

      I've always wondered, did Von Braun deal with those statements as he was portrayed in the Right Stuff? Werner was both a pretty smart guy, and a former Nazi - I would kind of expect he would integrate the idea of using propaganda to manipulate the public in about 0.037 seconds and be enthusiastically telling the press whatever would push the right buttons.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Teancum (67324)

        Von Braun not only was skillful in terms of public relations, he teamed up with one of the best in America too: Walt Disney (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_Von_Braun#Popular_concepts_for_a_human_presence_in_space [wikipedia.org])

        "Manipulating the public" is a pretty harsh term for what is being done here, as I would call it "space advocacy". The one of the things that made what the Nazi's did in terms of propaganda that was "evil" is that they didn't allow dissenting opinions from being expressed. There is noth

  • I find it interesting that the vehicle is being designed for short duration missions. Is Boeing prematurely bowing out of the upcoming lifeboat competition?

    http://quantumg.blogspot.com/2010/06/lifeboat-politics.html [blogspot.com]

    • by sznupi (719324)

      Short duration autonomous mission; it can certainly last much longer while docked (and, say, drawing power from the station to keep itself alive) - look at Soyuz, it has the time of autonomous flight in the range of one week, in current configurations; but typically is docked around half a year to a station.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by QuantumG (50515) *

        The Soyuz is designed for long duration missions. What I'm talking about here is endurance. The Soyuz TMA configuration can stay at the station for 6 months and operate as a lifeboat because it was designed for that. Boeing is specifically saying their vehicle will not.

        • by sznupi (719324)

          If some source specifically says that (yeah, non-RTFA et al...though I was reading about this Bigelow-Boeing capsule in the last few days), I would expect it to be at most some miscommunication / confusion of autonomous & docked endurance.

          C'mon, Bigelow seems to be heavily involved with this capsule. Why would they want something which can't stay docked & evacuate, if needed, crew of the space station(s?) that they're going to build?

          • by QuantumG (50515) *

            Because that's a NASA requirement that most people think is just babying the astronauts. With a station in a sensible inclination it's a lot easier to just leave a rocket on standby to do a rescue mission if needed.

            • by sznupi (719324)

              I doubt very much it's easier; it occupies the pad, adds two days at minimum, adds another possible failure mode (instead of relying on something which is already there and most likely ready) to something which is supposedly already a failure overall. In contrast, the only major thing a capsule needs, to stay alive while docked, is a powersource that will last - but it sort of needs that already to a large degree, if it needs to be on standby.

              Plus, remember it's for space station usage - where people would

              • by QuantumG (50515) *

                I believe Boeing has said that they're taking the "taxi" model over the "rental car" model. As in, there's a pilot who stays with the vehicle and returns it. The major difficulty of long duration stays is not just power, it's making sure the propellants and other descent systems stay operational over that long haul. It is hard, and I don't know how anyone can say it isn't, considering that there's only one vehicle in the world that has ever done it.

                • by sznupi (719324)

                  Oh well, we'll wait and see. But one can't help being cautious when someone uses "taxi" metaphor ;p (wasn't it also used for the Shuttle? The vehicle which was supposed to be quite cheap and with fast turnaround?)

                  And hey, this is still rocket science. But consider another thing with Soyuz - it demonstrably can launch under very tight schedule - on October 1113 1969, three manned missions (Soyuz 6, 7, and 8) were launched from the same pad within 48 hours; was also used much more "disposably" for over a deca

    • by downix (84795)

      Your signature is incorrect. If it were true, NASA's budget would be more than tripled.

  • Is it a (new crew) capsule or a new (crew capsule)?

  • Seen lots of articles on new (orbital = real) space vehicles during the last 30 years - haven't seen anything fly except the shuttle. Fork sticking time, you may now STFU. American manned space program? You're beyond dead to me now. 1977 dead. Worse - because in 1977, the shuttle was still on schedule to fly. There's nothing concrete going on now apart from Boeing giving NASA some deliverables so their contract isn't a total bust and the lawyers aren't pulled out.

    Fuck you NASA, and Boeing.
    • by QuantumG (50515) *

      There's lots going on, you might wanna pay attention.

      • Name on object that flew into orbit with a man on board without being a 35+ year old design - wake me when you get there. Busy work and speculation contracts don't count.

        (and china doesn't count either - that piece of crap was a knock off from the Soviet era).
        • by QuantumG (50515) *

          Soyuz TMA? See, the Soviets actually do a little thing called "continuous improvement"..

          In any case, its the stuff that is being built now that the Shuttle is being retired, and the Constellation zombie is being shot in the head, that you should check out. Quite a few vehicles are under development: http://quantumg.blogspot.com/2010/06/lifeboat-politics.html [blogspot.com]

        • by Teancum (67324)

          By definition of what you are talking about, that would be the Shenshou [wikipedia.org] spacecraft. While it looks similar to a Soyuz spacecraft that was originally launched by the USSR, it really is a very different vehicle and represents a clean-sheet design. Certainly nothing in that vehicle came from RKK Energia. If you think that "crap" was a knock off from the Soviet era, you don't know what you are talking about. The similarity in the design is because it uses a similar mode of operation including ground-based l

  • Wasn't Virgin's Richard Branson involved in some space tourism efforts in recent years and he had that multi-billion dollar shuttlecraft his customers could use to fly up and back?

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