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Space Science

Bigelow Aerospace Fast-Tracks Manned Spacecraft 122

Raver32 writes "Following the successful launch and deployment of two inflatable space modules, on Monday the owner and founder of Bigelow Aerospace announced plans to move ahead with the launch of its first human habitable spacecraft, the Sundancer. The decision to fast-track Sundancer was made in part due to rising launch costs as well as the ability to test some systems on the ground, company CEO Robert Bigelow said in a press statement. 'As anyone associated with the aerospace industry is aware, global launch costs have been rising rapidly over the course of the past few years,' Bigelow is quoted as saying. 'These price hikes have been most acute in Russia due to a number of factors including inflation, previous artificially low launch costs and the falling value of the US dollar.'"
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Bigelow Aerospace Fast-Tracks Manned Spacecraft

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  • Re:hmmm (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bombula ( 670389 ) on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @10:57PM (#20232687)
    Well, there are some relatively common circumstances that might warrant ultra-fast transcontinental travel. Just as one example, if there was a heart available for transplant, for example, then many people would pay the extra $28,000 to have it arrive in 30 minutes instead of 24 hours.
  • Re:hmmm (Score:4, Interesting)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) <qg@biodome.org> on Tuesday August 14, 2007 @11:30PM (#20232859) Homepage Journal
    I question your numbers. Using current launch capabilities your figure is way too low. Personally, I'm not too interested in NY to LA. I'm more interested in NY to London or Sydney. For that you're actually going to have to hit orbit. SpaceX's Falcon 1 is the world's lowest cost per flight to orbit of a production rocket. A standard Falcon 1 mission is $7 million.

    Of course, if you're talking about the future, and want to be super optimistic about it, then let's think about reusable launch vehicles. Basically the entire cost of the vehicle can be ignored, as it will be amortized over its use. So that leaves fuel, taxes, insurance, etc. A flight on a plane, today, is basically just the price of the fuel plus a thin margin. So fuel is a pretty good indicator of how cheap rocket travel could ever be.

    Armadillo Aerospace are talking up a modular reusable rocket concept. They've flown some modules, but they're still a few years off putting a person on it. Each module has 180 pounds ethanol and 250 pounds LOX and they're saying 64 modules to get to orbit. Ignoring, for now, the fact that they have no idea how to deorbit - they intend to make some money from one way trips, like, satellite launches, etc. That's about $28 for the ethanol, $9 for the LOX, per module, or $2368 for an orbital flight. Even if you double that to do an inefficient re-entry and retro-rocket landing, that's still pretty cheap to go from any two points on the planet. Especially when you consider that every time they throw someone from one continent to another they can also drop something off in space, they can divide the cost between many stakeholders.

    And this is all with garage level technology. There's no scaled composites here. There's no turbo pumps and aerodynamic wings. And there's no tethers or laser propulsion systems or any of the other fancy innovations that we might see in the distance future.

  • by wisebabo ( 638845 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @12:01AM (#20233039) Journal
    Skipping a step or two in the development of a space craft (or habitat) is not without precedent. After the Apollo 1 disaster, NASA stepped back for a year from its already horrific schedule to rethink safety. By the time they were ready to restart they were so far behind schedule that, had they stuck to the original plan, they would never have made it "before this decade is out" (John F. Kennedy).

    Then some particularly enlightened (and ballsy) director made a brilliant decision. Instead of testing first the booster, then the booster plus the second stage, then the booster and the second stage plus the third stage, and then everything with the spacecraft "stack" and finally all of this with the command module having an (unmanned) re-entry at escape velocity speeds (the third stage would be used to propel the space craft DOWN) he had the following idea. (Actually I'm sure the idea was floating around, HE had the power to make it happen).

    Since everything is ready (on the ground at least) why not test everything at once?

    It worked. The unmanned Apollo 5(?) not to be confused with the launcher Saturn 5 (or in Roman numerals V) worked flawlessly and was a huge success. With it, NASA made up all of its lost time and then some and was able to land man on the moon in the summer of 1969.

    The things the United States (and the world) is capable of, given the will and dedication of its people, is simply astounding. Gives me hope at the same time I despair as how it has been squandered by the present administration.

  • oh, really? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Wednesday August 15, 2007 @01:39AM (#20233439) Journal
    If BG (or ellis, or McNealy, ....) could fly from NY to LA in 20 minutes, they (or their company) would gladly pay 50K+ for that. Their time really is worth that. Somebody once showed that BG would actaully lose money to bend over and pick up a 100 bill from the sidewalk (and that was in early 90's). Why would they pay this? Because travel is expensive in terms of time.

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