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ESA Unveils Re-Entry Module 101

bmcage writes "The ESA unveiled the Intermediate eXperimental Vehicle, a real re-entry vehicle. Although it will not be reused, it has a better geometry than NASA's Orion or the Russian Soyuz, giving better lift, and control. This is not done by the addition of useless wings, but by using two brakes. Finally a departure from the Apollo design that is actually better?"
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ESA Unveils Re-Entry Module

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  • Finally? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Smilodon ( 66992 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @10:48AM (#25640963)

    "A REAL re-entry vehicle" (that exists only on paper)? "Finally?" "Useless wings?"

    Good grief, who writes this stuff anymore? I'm sure ESA's ideas are interesting and innovative, but making this out to be the savior of the manned space program is a bit facetious to say the least.

    Is it not essentially a lifting body (in spite of some new ideas)? NASA pioneered this concept, which was intended to be applied to reentry vehicles at some point. The concept was most recently expressed in the X38B crew return vehicle.

    Admittedly, the X38 was canceled, but due to budgetary reasons, not because it was a bad idea. And this program was well along (with real flight hardware) when canceled.

  • Gemini (Score:3, Insightful)

    by phrostie ( 121428 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @11:06AM (#25641473)

    looks like they are taking a step backwards to a more Gemini/lifting body approach.
    i've always thought that was a better configuration, but it's hardly new.

    i like it.
    i think they should have taken that path with Orion.

  • by Toad-san ( 64810 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @11:37AM (#25642405)

    We aren't talking about making a runway approach here, so who needs all this control (besides some frustrated pilot astronaut)? No control needed to hit the Pacific or even Central Asia; just timing.

    I am also concerned about the total reliance on one big honker parachute, and wonder what the vehicle's speed will be (slowed by pure air drag alone?) when that main has to deploy. I'd feel a LOT better with a wee drag chute out the back (in case of control and/or parachute failure), and at least an escape hatch with personnel chutes for the crew. Yeah, I know, more weight, more parts. But (after a career watching Army heavy drop loads come hurtling in) one chute sure worries me.

  • by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @12:48PM (#25644377)

    SpaceShipOne and SpaceShipTwo were purely sub-orbital; they were glorified rocket planes that didn't carry anywhere near the fuel necessary to reach orbital velocity. SpaceShipThree, on the other hand, will reach orbit, but it will almost certainly be a multi-stage craft.

    And while discarding empty fuel tanks may be wasteful, it would be far more wasteful to expend the enormous amount of fuel required to carry the entire craft to orbit.

    Until we find a better means of propulsion than rocket fuel, multi-stage craft are the most resource-efficient means of attaining orbit.

  • by mapsjanhere ( 1130359 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @01:19PM (#25645057)
    Since it's not reusable, the fragile heat resistant tiles are not a problem. The shroud is for aerodynamic control during launch, you can see in the video that the vehicle is a lifting body; have it sit exposed on top of the rocket would give you huge off-axis forces due to drag/lift.
    Single stage to orbit doesn't make sense from a fuel economy point, you need a lot of big engine at the beginning, why accelerate all that mass into orbit? Ditto on reentry, you have to bleed off all that additional energy you put in, requiring lots more of those fragile heat shield tiles.
  • by mapsjanhere ( 1130359 ) on Wednesday November 05, 2008 @01:25PM (#25645209)
    You need the control to make sure your "lander" doesn't roll. You only have one side of the vehicle protected via tiles, if you expose the other side you get fried astronaut with your fire work.
    In regards to the chute, weight is everything at the orbiter stage, and landing gear adds a lot of weight. And if the main chute fails, I doubt you could manually exit the vehicle in a supersonic slip stream without ejection seats (which again are way to heavy).

Our business in life is not to succeed but to continue to fail in high spirits. -- Robert Louis Stevenson