Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
NASA Transportation Science

NASA Rejoins Space Race With Manned Deep Space Craft 179

Posted by samzenpus
from the taking-a-long-trip dept.
Laura K. Cowan writes "NASA is back in the future-tech space race with a new manned deep space craft called the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, which aims to take astronauts on longer missions to deep space, eventually to planets such as Mars where only unmanned crafts have previously traveled. The MPCV holds 4 astronauts, is currently capable of 3-week missions, and not only could take mankind to new frontiers but is billed as being '10 times safer... than the current space shuttle.' Maybe there is hope for space travel outside the X Prize."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NASA Rejoins Space Race With Manned Deep Space Craft

Comments Filter:
  • Back to real rockets, and rocketmen! (women also).

    The sooner the Shuttles can be put on display in museums, the better.

  • by jhoegl (638955) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @06:08PM (#36244726)
    How many "concept art" drawings have we seen from NASA regarding anything deep space?

    Stop talking about it and start doing it.
  • by socz (1057222) <socrates@@@ghettobsd...org> on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @06:08PM (#36244734) Homepage Journal

    Why do they insist on capsules? Why not take the advice of someone from FPA; build it at the space station and design it to refuel/load from there, eliminating the need to return to earth? We still have to get things up to the ISS, but that'll be left to the Russians and their superior rockets. We can take over 'space exploration' by just skipping that part. "Oh but what if they don't want to help us shuttle our crew/items up to the ISS one day?" No worries, Virgin and Japan/other countries are working on that! So we'll find one way or another to get to the ISS.

    • by Noughmad (1044096)

      An AC three posts down from your answered it quite well:

      Gotta keep the boys at Lockheed Martin in pork

      I don't think there was much in the way of "campaign contributions" from Russians or Japanese.

      • To be fair NASA gives money to SpaceX and other space related industries as parts of its COTS initiative. The reason for the reemergence of the capsule is to eliminate the safety issues associated with the space shuttle. Having the crew above the rockets rather than along side them will lower the possibility of debris endangering the crew during launch.

        Not to mention, NASA doesn't have the money to do anything too revolutionary. Their first priority is to reestablish the US's direct access to space.

    • Re:Dissapointing (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tyrione (134248) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @06:43PM (#36245146) Homepage

      Why do they insist on capsules? Why not take the advice of someone from FPA; build it at the space station and design it to refuel/load from there, eliminating the need to return to earth? We still have to get things up to the ISS, but that'll be left to the Russians and their superior rockets. We can take over 'space exploration' by just skipping that part. "Oh but what if they don't want to help us shuttle our crew/items up to the ISS one day?" No worries, Virgin and Japan/other countries are working on that! So we'll find one way or another to get to the ISS.

      We'd first have to actually build a large scale Space Port, not to mention more advanced large assembly equipment and space suit assembly equipment for the staff before we can pull a Star Trek.

    • by caseih (160668)

      I don't know of anyone who's not insisting on capsules for manned flight. What else would you suggest?

      • Well I like the concepts in this thread: build a ship that stays in-orbit. Ship up fuel but not the beast itself. I can see problems, though: 1) Huge rockets yield huge thrust that grants the craft escape velocity; any spacecraft that remains on-orbit would need to perform sufficient thrust to push it out of our gravity well. 2) It would need to be cheaper to launch the fuel for the aforementioned thrust than just doing it all in one go with a capsule. Often, it's the fuel and not the spacecraft that ma
        • Often, it's the fuel and not the spacecraft that makes up the bulk of the launch mass.

          Often??

          Actually, since mass ratio to reach LEO is about 10, it's fairly safe to say that fuel is "the bulk of the launch".

          Hint: Mass ratio is the number you multiply the empty mass of a launch vehicle (or any other spacecraft) by to get mass with fuel. So typical launch vehicles are more than 90% fuel....

          • "Often" was definitely a poor choice of words. The question, then, is what's the delta-v required to move a craft from LEO to an interplanetary trajectory, and is it cheaper to ship the requisite fuel to space than to do everything in a single go, ground to interplanetary.
      • NASA is not insisting on capsules [nasa.gov]. The majority of proposed vehicles are capsules, including this one that they're doing the traditional way, but in the last round of CCDev proposals Orbital Sciences and Sierra Nevada both proposed spaceplanes.

    • Why do they insist on capsules? Why not take the advice of someone from FPA; build it at the space station and design it to refuel/load from there, eliminating the need to return to earth? We still have to get things up to the ISS, but that'll be left to the Russians and their superior rockets. We can take over 'space exploration' by just skipping that part. "Oh but what if they don't want to help us shuttle our crew/items up to the ISS one day?" No worries, Virgin and Japan/other countries are working on that! So we'll find one way or another to get to the ISS.

      I think for the same reason the Space Shuttle can't visit BOTH the Hubble Telescope and the Space Station in one trip is the same reason why you wouldn't ever have a ship from beyond low earth orbit return to dock at the Space Station...the necessary changes in velocity would require too much fuel. Picture this: the ISS is orbiting earth at 17,000 mph, while the Apollo craft had to reach speeds of 25,000 mph to go to the moon. You don't just get to slow down for free in space, so would you rather launch y

    • Why do they insist on capsules? Why not take the advice of someone from FPA; build it at the space station and design it to refuel/load from there, eliminating the need to return to earth?

      Because that takes considerably more lift capacity, more life support capacity, more time, and is much higher risk. Not to mention that the ISS is in an orbit that is difficult to get to from the US (imposing a large cargo penalty) and not very good for getting to anywhere from (imposing yet more of a cargo penalty).

      • Re:Dissapointing (Score:5, Interesting)

        by john.r.strohm (586791) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @09:01PM (#36246358)

        There's an outfit called SpaceX. They build a booster called the Falcon 9. They build a BMF version of it, called the Falcon 9 Heavy.

        NASA recently took all the data on the Falcon 9, and shoveled it into their cost model system. Done as a NASA project, Falcon 9 estimates out at something like 7 billion dollars. Done as a Commercial project, with NASA supervision, it still costs out at 1.5 billion. The problem with those estimates is that SpaceX did the whole shebang for about 300 million.

        When your cost model system says it will cost five times as much as it actually did, either your cost model system is utter bullstuff, or you've shoveled in a HUGE amount of gold-plating and featherbedding. Probably both.

        • a HUGE amount of gold-plating and featherbedding

          does 'featherbedding' mean corruption? If not, you forgot one.

        • When your cost model system says it will cost five times as much as it actually did, either your cost model system is utter bullstuff, or you've shoveled in a HUGE amount of gold-plating and featherbedding. Probably both.

          You've forgotten that there are other options too. Maybe SpaceX left out a heap of the detailed testing and QA or cut other corners that a NASA or commercial program wouldn't. Maybe SpaceX hasn't accounted for the development costs of the Falcon 1 components that were used in the Falcon 9

    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      You know that ISS stands for International Space Station, right? The Russians built the main module that was originally going to be Mir 2. Japan has built modules too, as has Europe. It doesn't belong to the US.

  • So only one out of every 500 or so will explode? /but I don't wanna explode!

  • Everyone following NASA even remotely knew that Orion was going to be the MPCV.

    • by Noughmad (1044096)

      No, Orion was going to be the most awesome thing humanity has ever produced. Then they cancelled it.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Indeed, to call this thing Orion is disgusting.

      • by rhook (943951)

        Constellation was canceled, Orion is still alive as it is the very vehicle. Orion is officially known as the MPCV (Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle).

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orion_(spacecraft) [wikipedia.org]

        "As of 11 October 2010, with the canceling of the Constellation Program, the Ares program has ended and the Orion vehicle is now planned to be launched on top of Space Launch System, an intended cheaper alternative to the Ares series."

      • No it was not. This announcement is about rebranding Orion as the MPCV.

  • by cyberfringe (641163) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @06:16PM (#36244820) Journal
    This is simply a rebranded Orion capsule. I worked on Constellation (from inside NASA) for years and helped the program get started. There is no rocket to launch the capsule. There is no mission for it. Nothing on the books, nothing remotely near ready for approval. Just how "deep" into space will it go with a mission time of 21 days? Hint: The Moon is not "deep space". Mars is deep space. Mars is at least 6 months away - one direction. Finally, how many times (altogether now) have we heard "advanced avionics"? That means they are up to Web 0.42 now, maybe. Bottom line: This is pure pork for Lockheed-Martin (Lockheed HQ is in Maryland; Dem. Senator Mikulski is on the Appropriation Committee). It is a multiple billion dollar gift. It will never fly. Ever. I'll bet a fair share of the related jobs go to Houston and to Huntsville, AL (Rep. Sen. Shelby, also on the Appropriations committee).
    • by clutch110 (528473)

      Actually quite a few of the jobs will be in Colorado according to this Denver Post article http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_18132552 [denverpost.com].

    • In defense of TFA, the summary isn't accurate. The article's author even says

      missions lasting upwards of 21 days (so, no Mars landings just yet),

      And the "deep space" designation I'm willing to bet is just to get public support (although I don't know why you wouldn't just say "Let's go back to the moon."). Take it from NASA Admin Charles Boldin

      We are committed to human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit and look forward to developing the next generation of systems to take us there.

      "Deep space" sounds, and is easier to understand to laymen than "outside low-earth orbit"

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      This is so sad. No rocket, no mission, and they point out how many different states are building it. Space welfare no more and no less.

    • Allow me to say it more colorfully:

      NASA announced Tuesday that they will continue to blow wads of cash on a failed design for a spacecraft.

      The Orion capsule, now dubbed "MPCV", in development since 2005 but not even ready for first launch, will continue to suck up money that could go to efforts that have a chance of producing something tangible well before 2015.

      The bloated, overweight, and complicated capsule that has already made $5 billion disappear into a black hole will continue as a contract to fill pr

      • It sure isn't going to use that fancy new heat shield to enter Mars atmosphere either, much less land with parachutes! That PR picture of it in Mars orbit is really one of NASA's more egregious lies.
  • Isn't "Deep Space" supposed to be outside the influence of the Earth's Gravitational Field? Because three weeks of spaceflight probably won't get you there unless someone has packed a VASIMR engine and a nuke power plant inside of the Lego set NASA is calling a deep space vehicle.
    • by ZankerH (1401751)
      Strictly speaking, the Moon is outside the Earth's sphere of influence. The only reason it's orbiting us is because the sum of the gravitational forces of both the Earth and the Moon are somewhat greater than the Sun's gravitational influence.
      • by cyberfringe (641163) on Wednesday May 25, 2011 @07:19PM (#36245460) Journal
        So here is the story: inside NASA, "Deep Space" used to mean (prior to 2003) anything beyond the orbit of the Moon. This was intended to be the domain of work for science and telecommunications ops of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), an FFRDC operated by Caltech as a NASA center. Inside the Moon's orbit was the domain of scientific work for NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC). This included Earth observing science and telecom as well as astrophysics spacecraft. During the Constellation program, when simply returning to the Moon was not enough justification for the program and seeking a way to justify control of the design of deep space telecom for manned spaceflight, the Constellation Program Office at NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) and NASA GSFC sought to redefine deep space as anything beyond HEO. This was also an attempt by GSFC to put JPL's Deep Space Interplanetary Network (aka "DSN) on the sideline of the design process for Constellation deep space telecom. (Furthermore, GSFC at the time was lobbying to get new Earth orbiting telecom spacecraft launched and needed additional justification, ergo "they are good for Constellation"). I don't think the issue was every resolved one way or another as far as "official" definitions go and in the end, not much changed before Constellation was cancelled. The lesson is this: Words like "deep space" can mean a lot when government research centers are fighting to protect their charters and business base. I'm glad I'm out of that biz!
    • by sconeu (64226)

      My guess is that they're defining "Deep Space" as "Anything above LEO"

  • This thing isn't even out of the design phase, so it's a bit... i dunno... presumptuous to state it's "currently" capable of anything.

    On top of that, 21 days doesn't let you get very far from Earth into "deep space", unless LM is sitting on a revolutionary propulsion system for the capsule, which given the budgets and proposals involved doesn't seem likely. Moon missions are possible, which would be neat to get back into, but until NASA gets the budget of their dreams while DoD has to hold a fundraiser to p

  • The Shuttle has a 1 in 50 chance of failure. That's not exactly the right benchmark. 1 in 500 isn't particularly good.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      No, it does not have a 1 in 50 chance of failure.

      And for space flight, 1 in 500 is remarkable.

      • by fizzup (788545)

        Well, the shuttle has about a two per cent death rate per astronaut flight, and a failure rate of 1 in 65. (130 missions with two failures.) the OP is not that far off, and there was a time when the failure rate was 1 in 50, but there have been successful missions since then. Who knows what the final failure rate for the shuttle will be?

        I tend to agree with the OP that using the shuttle as a benchmark for safety is a great way to make a high risk activity sound safe. What sounds better: 10 times safer than

  • Because making far fetched plans is cheaper than actually doing manned spaceflight.
    • by tsotha (720379)
      Is it? NASA has managed to spend a hell of a lot of money making far-fetched plans that never go anywhere.
  • It's sad to see that NASA has been reduced to this. A modern recreation of their 1960's glory-day technology. The Russians have Soyuz which is an evolved an mature version of their old tech, tremendously improved over the original, and NASA wants to field something which is pretty much an upgraded Apollo system.

    Ask the Russians for the ride up and down, make something cool for deeper space exploration which doesn't need to make the huge trade-offs of aerodynamic braking and stability but rather is optimise

  • Because it holds 1/2 as many astronauts as shuttle did...
  • Seriously.

    This seems to be the Orion with a new background pic. Four astronauts, 3 week mission.

    And where are they going with a three week mission? The moon again?

  • Cue the "Magic Carpet Ride"
  • Presents a promise that the vehicle could go to Mars and Deep space, but then turns around and says:

    "The MPCV holds 4 astronauts, is currently capable of 3-week missions..."

    To Mars? In what, 7 days?

    That is impressive. But it would require an open mind, and revelation of physics people have been killed for even discussing.

    So, no way

  • From the design, it looks like the South Beach Junior College is in charge of rocket design for NASA; cudos SBJC. I'm amazed that Charles Bolden didn't request the drawings from the Wright Brothers "Wright Flyer" for Crew Module System Recovery. One can only imagine the howls of laughter when some senior level aeronautical engineer said, "Hay, why don't we build the entire thing in parts at the ISS!" Because everyone outside the U.S. doesn't have a clue about modular construction methods...
  • A lot of comments here that NASA shouldn't settle for a redesigned Apollo capsule. NASA has been developing space planes since before Project Mercury. The X-15, the Blended-Wing lifting bodies are examples. Most recently, NASA cancelled the X-33 in 2001 because the X-33 was too heavy to ever make it into space. All space planes have one thing in common: None of them can carry enough fuel to reach orbit. The only space planes to ever fly into orbit were carried aloft by conventional rockets, such as the Spac

  • ...by some pandering politician looking to redirect the funds into a pork-barrel project in their district.
  • Why no, this is nothing at all like an Apollo capsule. Not, not, not.

    How embarrassing.

  • by MrKaos (858439)
    Excuse the cynicism but NASA has been the victim of pork barreling for a long time. As long as that is controlling NASA's destiny with a management culture overruling an engineering culture I simply do not believe it is geared to do anything more than guide budget into electoral provinces. Sadly.

You scratch my tape, and I'll scratch yours.

Working...