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NASA Space Science

Private Space Shuttle Flights 244

Posted by Soulskill
from the discovering-a-challenging-endeavour-for-enterprise dept.
An anonymous reader writes "It has recently been suggested that when the Space Shuttles are retired after their final flights this year, they may continue operations under the funding of private enterprise. United Space Alliance is considering a $1.5 billion per year proposal to take the fleet private. The aging spacecraft have been flying for close to 30 years, and NASA is retiring them for good reason. Is it safe to continue flights in private hands?"
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Private Space Shuttle Flights

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  • Safe? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by XanC (644172) on Monday February 07, 2011 @06:24PM (#35131078)

    Was it all that safe in government hands?

  • Re:Safe? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Mikkeles (698461) on Monday February 07, 2011 @06:26PM (#35131098)

    You payz yer money; you takez yer chances.

  • Re:New Shuttle! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by publiclurker (952615) on Monday February 07, 2011 @06:34PM (#35131172)
    The big problem with the shuttle is that they had to give it a huge payload in order to get the military to sign on and get the necessary funding. If they were to start again using modern technologies, they should be able to create something smaller for human launches that is both safer and cheaper.
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday February 07, 2011 @06:46PM (#35131300) Homepage

    Won't work. The Shuttle required a huge infrastructure, employing about 15,000 people as late as 2009. Layoffs have been underway for years. Manufacturing and repair facilities have been closed down. The parts stock has been depleted. It's over.

  • by Anubis350 (772791) on Monday February 07, 2011 @07:01PM (#35131450)
    I realize you're probably a troll, but I'll bite (if for no other reason than you have an awesome UID

    In honor of those lives lost in 86 [...] the fleet should have been grounded a LONG time ago

    I'm pretty sure that none of the people whose lives were lost would consider it an honor for the fleet to be grounded. Pilots, researchers, and anyone else who undertakes to get onto a giant chemical rocket pointed up accepts that there's some risk, and they accept it willingly. This isn't a job at McDonalds that people take because they have no other choice, this is a job that highly skilled and motivated people take, despite (relative to what many of them could be doing in private industry) crappy pay, shitty hours, and lots of hard work. Not to mention that all told space travel under NASA has been exceedingly safe, being a commercial pilot would, in fact, likely be riskier to life and limb, it's just that when things go wrong with space flight in it's current state they go *wrong*.

    and millions starving instead of being fed to do so [...] NASA is a pig, a money pit, we all know it

    NASA is such a tiny portion of the federal budget that the idea of calling it a money hog is laughable. No one is starving because of the shuttle program, and the basic research NASA has produced has, in fact, helped farming methods, food safety standards, food packaging and shipping technology, food processing technology... etc. Not to mention that your argument is a false dichotomy, the only two things the govt spends money are not NASA and food...

    Hell, if we'd funded NASA better we'd probably have a shuttle replacement flying by now.

    it is already private with FAT government spending and waste

    Uh, what?

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Monday February 07, 2011 @07:05PM (#35131472)
    In the Shuttle's defense, I must say it has much better acceleration and a much higher top speed than the Corvair. Oh, and it flies too!

    The fundamental flaw in the Shuttle design was putting the booster tanks beside the Shuttle instead of below it. It's successors won't make the same mistake.
  • Re:New Shuttle! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Miamicanes (730264) on Monday February 07, 2011 @07:34PM (#35131840)

    Why? Retrieving Hubble would make no sense at all.

    99.9% of its cost was just getting it into orbit to begin with. If anything, it would make MORE sense to give it one last hard shove AWAY from the Earth once it's about to become uncontrollable, so that N years from now, somebody can go salvage, refurbish, and put it back into service. Maybe tow it to the moon, Mars, or somewhere else. Or turn it into an orbiting shrine or tourist attraction someday.

    Then again, I was rather relieved when NASA got the loony idea of asking the Russians to sign off on its plans to deorbit the ISS after its official service life is over in 2014, and the Russians politely (but firmly) made it known that they intend to keep it in orbit (with duct tape & WD-40, if necessary) until the day they literally can't stop it from falling into the Pacific. We might be insane enough to buy into the accounting profession's madness that an asset whose full lifecycle cost has officially been zeroed-out is now without value and must be disposed of immediately, but the Russians still recognize that they have a really, really expensive asset in a valuable location that cost an unholy amount of money to get there, and they're going to wring every last ${currency-unit} they can out of it before writing it off and abandoning it.

  • by david.given (6740) <dg@cowl a r k .com> on Monday February 07, 2011 @08:08PM (#35132208) Homepage Journal

    This way, the ISS has an "emergency boat" or escape craft if something goes extremely wrong.

    No, it wouldn't. The shuttle's strictly designed for short-term stays in space. Keep it there for more than about ten days and its cryogenics will boil, its fuel cells will run dry, its carbon dioxide scrubbers will saturate, and it'll generally start decaying. Hell, I don't even think it's completely airtight.

    It is possible for the shuttle to use the ISS' power bus to reduce the load on the shuttle's own fuel cells. This can extend a shuttle mission up to fourteen days, although it does need to be docked to make it work. NASA was working on a system called the Extended Duration Orbiter for free flying missions. With this, a shuttle could stay in orbit for sixteen days; they built one, and flew it twice. The second time was on Columbia, and it didn't come down.

    One of the great things about the Soyuz capsules is that they're designed for long-duration stays in space; they can last for months docked to the space station. That's why they're the preferred option for the ISS lifeboats; they try to keep one docked at all times. NASA was working on its own lifeboat, the X38 lifting body vehicle... it got cancelled, of course. Right now it looks like the next candidate will be the manned Dragon.

    Personally, I think they should do an unmanned launch of the last shuttle with the cargo hold crammed full of the dangerous fuel tanks they wouldn't let the shuttle lift after Challenger. This can boost it up into a high orbit --- GEO's probably not possible, but that would be nice --- and there they just let it shut down and rot as an orbiting museum piece. Everyone will be able to see it, on the longest shuttle mission ever. And one day it'll form the core of a real museum of spacecraft, in orbit where they belong.

If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, then a consensus forecast is a camel's behind. -- Edgar R. Fiedler

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