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NASA Space Science

Inside a Last-Ditch Effort To Save the Space Shuttle 134

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-always-get-what-you-want dept.
SkinnyGuy writes "NASA's Space Shuttle could have flown again as early as 2014 if a secret effort to repurpose them for commercial flight had succeeded. From the article: 'Though secret, the plan quickly gained support and Dittmar described how funding and interest grew dramatically. "Initially skeptical," she wrote, "people became caught up in the vision of a Commercial Space Shuttle funded entirely by private and institutional investors and put back into service to shape new markets." ...In the end, two crucial factors made it all but impossible to revive the shuttle program as a commercial enterprise or in any fashion. One was that so much of the Shuttle infrastructure has already been shifted to other efforts that the revival team could never pull together sufficient funds to return those resources to the Space Shuttles. Two: The SLS program.'"
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Inside a Last-Ditch Effort To Save the Space Shuttle

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  • Hmmmmm.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kakapo (88299) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:01PM (#38426830)

    This is tripping my BS detector. Googling for "Kevin Holleran" site:uk returns next to nothing about this "millionaire" other than that someone of that name was the director of a half dozen companies, not of which look particularly spacey. Can you really get to be a Shuttle-investing millionaire and leave no google trail at all?

  • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:47PM (#38427284) Homepage

    The shuttle was brilliant in it's moment but is now horribly dated. With all of the tech advances that have occured in the last 30 years, it's really time to retire the thing. There should have been a Shuttle 2.0 to replace it but we all know the politics of the situation.

    Instead of keeping this particular zombie alive, they should go back to the drawing board and perhaps draw inspiration from some of the other Shuttle designs that didn't make it.

    Although separating the cargo from the people is probably a good alternate approach to start considering. The whole bloody thing probably doesn't need to be engineered to the level where it becomes acceptable for manned use.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:48PM (#38427292)

    According to this link [esa.int] there were more than 1700 successful Soyuz launches. Are you sure it's not as safe?

  • Re:Dumb design (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Monday December 19, 2011 @04:51PM (#38427316) Homepage

    Everything you've said is completely correct. But I'd like to point out an additional, often underappreciated problem with the shuttle. The US military insisted that the shuttle be able to take off from a variety of other locations including Vandenberg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vandenberg_AFB_Space_Launch_Complex_6 [wikipedia.org]. They wanted it to be able to launch into a near polar orbit, send out a satellite and land all in a single orbit of the Earth. This was so that if things ever got hot with the USSR we could launch additional spy satellites faster than the Soviets could shoot them down. This article http://www.space.com/1438-chapter-opens-space-shuttle-born-compromise.html [space.com] discusses this in detail. There are also other requirements that the military had but it seems that the details remain classified. So we should add to the list:

    4) You don't use a single vehicle that you try to design to do every possible orbit on the off chance that it might be useful.

  • Re:Good (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tekfactory (937086) on Monday December 19, 2011 @05:08PM (#38427484) Homepage

    No crew module?

    You're aware of the Dragon capsule?

    http://www.spacex.com/updates.php [spacex.com]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_(spacecraft) [wikipedia.org]

    Yes, they're still testing it because they have to, but I am certain there are some folks out there that thought we'd be able to use Soyuz missions for crew rotation for a while until a replacement for the shuttle's capabilities is found.

    Soyuz can handle crew rotations, Progress can handle food and cargo missions. With the long history of the Soyuz and Progress programs, no one likely factored in their thinking that an undiscovered problem would ground the program for weeks/months.

    Eventually SpaceX will have crew and cargo capabilities and other launch alliance partners might have viable vehicles as well.

    This is no bigger a setback to manned space than the Challenger or Columbia. Since many of the major ISS compunents are in orbit, I would say it is a much better time to have a gap in spaceflight capabilities.

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