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Space NASA

The Biggest Rocket Launches and Space Missions We're Looking Forward To in 2018 (theverge.com) 112

Loren Grush, writing for The Verge: Next year is already overflowing with exciting missions to space. NASA is launching a new lander to Mars, as well as a spacecraft that will get closer to the Sun than ever before. And two of NASA's vehicles already in space will finally arrive at their intended targets: one will rendezvous with a nearby asteroid, while another will pass by a distant space rock billions of miles from Earth. But it's not just NASA that has a busy year ahead; the commercial space industry has a number of significant test flights planned, and the launch of one of the world's most anticipated rockets, the Falcon Heavy, is slated for early 2018. And if all goes well, people may finally ride to space on private vehicles. Here's the complete list.
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The Biggest Rocket Launches and Space Missions We're Looking Forward To in 2018

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  • Is a wheel in orbit, so we can spin it and test fractional-g on mammals.

    Even a big baton with mice at one and and a counterweight on the other. Something.

    • Or we could build a space station and put mammals in there in its fractional-g environment! Brilliant!
    • For research purposes, what has been proposed is a "Variable Gravity Research Facility" (VRGF). This consists of a backbone truss, similar to the one on the ISS, and movable modules that can be positioned as needed for various g-levels. The truss can also vary the rotation rate as needed. It would allow testing multiple g-levels in parallel. The main levels we want to test are Lunar, Mars, and various levels between 0 and 1 g for long term crew missions. We also want to test how plants respond to vario

      • >A rotating wheel gives you the same gravity level all the way around. That's good once you figure out how much gravity we humans need to stay healthy, but for research we want to test all different amounts.

        Yes, of course. So a giant baton where the occupied module and the counterweight can move towards and away from each other on the shaft.

        I'm not a big fan of attaching such a thing to the ISS due to the vibration issues. If it's not attached to anything else, that problem goes away.

        • Yes, the ISS isn't set up to control such a large rotating object. You want a separate orbiting facility.

          • Yes, the ISS isn't set up to control such a large rotating object. You want a separate orbiting facility.

            Well, what we need is an entire deep space, ie outside LEO, research station for effects of gravity, radiation, environmental containment, shielding, and all other sorts of stuff that will need to be developed for the Mars mission that everybody is talking about but not funding.

    • Remember when they used to have "Baton Twirlers" in skimpy little outfits in parades? They would light the end of the baton on fire an do all kinds of neat tricks with them. That's what I want to see in space. Flaming, Mouse-Tipped, Giant Batons in Space! That's what I want my tax dollars going for!

  • Mars (Score:2, Insightful)

    So when are we going to Mars? Apparently all it takes is a big rocket and some space factories and some asteroid dust to protect us from the radiation in transit.
    • If you mean "we" as in people, Musk wants to go directly to Mars and start colonizing, as soon as the mid- to late- 2020's, (whenever his BFR starts realistically will be flying.

      A much more efficient route is to use electric tugs for cargo delivery, and set up a "Transit Station" in a cycling orbit between Earth and Mars. That way you only need to put it in position once, and use it many times. The tugs and transit station both use asteroid rock for shielding, water, and propellants. This cuts down how m

      • Yeah, good idea. Just build a transit station and electric tugs (in space). Then mine asteroids and transform it into shielding, water and propellants using some space factories. You just need a big rocket and some dreams.
    • Well, besides the big rocket most of the costs are catering [youtube.com].

    • So when are we going to Mars? Apparently all it takes is a big rocket and some space factories and some asteroid dust to protect us from the radiation in transit.

      About 30 years after somebody decides to start funding the most expensive engineering project in the history of man.

  • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Friday December 29, 2017 @02:25PM (#55829785) Journal
    SpaceX is putting up a new building for doing the the BFR's first stage. In addition, they have bought the equipment for building the BFR. Construction starts in the second half of 2018.
  • by DanielRavenNest ( 107550 ) on Friday December 29, 2017 @02:45PM (#55829867)

    Their list left off Stratolaunch Systems, which has built the world's largest airplane (400 ft wingspan) out of parts from two used 747's, plus a new carbon fiber body. It is intended to carry rockets up to 500,000 lb under the wing so they can get about twice the payload compared to the same rocket from the ground. The carrier plane has already started taxi tests in the Mohave desert, and is expected to reach first flight in 2018. Launching rockets may come later in the year or next year.

    Airplanes are highly reusable and relatively cheap per flight by rocket standards. If the first rocket stage is also recovered (which it won't be for the earliest rockets), it should be an economical launch system. The company is funded by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, who has more than enough money to see this through.

    • I remember reading a great article in Aviation Week years ago about Orbital ATK flying Pegasus missions from their converted L-1011.

      The cost reduction of using an aircraft as the first stage wasn't very significant and there was actually less flexibility in terms of launches than if you were taking off from the ground. The only significant savings was in infrastructure - you can launch from a runway, not a complex.

      The lack of cost reduction is due to the fact that an (converted) airliner provides less than

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        The lack of cost reduction is due to the fact that an (converted) airliner provides less than 5% of the energy and altitude normally provided by a traditional first stage - the economics change more in favour of a launch aircraft when you get above Mach 5 and 200k feet but there are no aircraft with this capability.

        Less than 5% of the energy, but if you take the rocket equation into account then about 16% of the launch weight while staying subsonic. And probably 1/5th the launch height (~10 km vs ~50 km) getting you past the densest parts of the atmosphere. It's better than single stage to orbit and potentially cheaper than throwing away the first stage. I saw that 5% claim came from Musk, he's probably talking it down since they went another route but if you got reusable first stages it seems quite superior. At least

        • It's not the height - it's the energy. When the Falcon first stage is jettisoned, the second stage and payload is moving at 7,000+ kmh. If you assume that the aircraft releases the rocket stack at 900 kmh, it only has about 1.6% of the energy which means that the rocket must make up the remaining 98.4% itself. I don't have the background to do all the math, but I would think that saying air launch provides 5% of the energy of a traditional first stage is being generous.

          Air launching is an idea that seems

  • I remember earlier in 2017 that Mr. Musk was hoping to launch a Dragon capsule, with astronauts around on a Falcon Heavy and have it fly around the moon on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8.

    Is there updates/plans/announcements about this?

    That would definitely be an inspiring and depressing (it took 50 years to repeat Apollo 8) mission.

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