DailyDirt: Another Golden Era Of Spaceflight Ahead..?

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Successfully re-using a rocket seems to be on the cusp of being an economically practical technology. The traditional aerospace industry is going to see a bit more competition from cheaper rockets that can still launch satellites into high orbit. Private space companies are starting to catch up with NASA's experience, but the business is still tricky because there's always a chance a very expensive rocket will just explode on the launchpad. After you've finished checking out those links, take a look at our Daily Deals for cool gadgets and other awesome stuff.

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  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 20 Apr 2016 @ 6:19pm

    Steely-Eyed Missile Men and Women

    Human space flight is still in it's infancy.

    In order for humanity to achieve the ability to make space flight as mundane as traveling by jet there need be a giant technological leap forward away from giant flaming missiles with their myriad of parts undergoing tremendous vibrations/stresses which make them very dangerous for any persons (or animals) to "fly" (ride atop).

    Steely-eyed missile men and women indeed.

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  • icon
    Paraquat (profile), 20 Apr 2016 @ 10:21pm

    The whole space shuttle era should serve as evidence that making space craft "reusable" doesn't necessarily make it cheaper. I do realize that the space shuttle itself was not the whole banana - it had to ride into orbit on booster rockets which themselves were disposable. But the space shuttle program was sold to Congress as a way of making space travel cheaper because the shuttle component could be reused.

    Meanwhile, the vastly cheaper Russian disposable space capsules now provide the only way for humans to reach the ISS. However, supplies are occasionally sent up on disposable unmanned rockets.

    Thanks to Star Wars and similar movies, we're conditioned to seeing flying "space airplanes" with wings and wheels that can take off and land under their own power. As a practical matter, this just doesn't work. One lesson we ought to have learned by now: bringing wings and wheels into space makes no sense.
    [ reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 21 Apr 2016 @ 4:35am

      Re:

      Yeah, because reusable rockets are totally the same thing as reusable capsules...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 21 Apr 2016 @ 8:21am

      Re:

      > The whole space shuttle era should serve as evidence that making space craft "reusable" doesn't necessarily make it cheaper.

      Only in the sense that a poorly designed government web site should serve as evidence that web sites aren't necessarily a good idea.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 21 Apr 2016 @ 8:36am

      Re:

      > One lesson we ought to have learned by now: bringing wings and wheels into space makes no sense.
      No, bringing wings and wheels into space still makes sense if the point of the spacecraft is to, you know, shuttle back and forth to low earth orbit.

      The shuttle could and often did bring back large payloads. Far larger can capsules could.

      And setting aside the political and design fiascos of the Shuttle, spacecraft are easier to recover from a runway than the ocean. And there's a lot to be said for not dunking the entire spacecraft in salt water on every flight.

      But a good, viable reusable winged shuttle will be a lot more expensive to develop, and will require a high launch rate to amortize the costs. The market for that hasn't existed yet.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2016 @ 9:30am

        Re:

        One of the main problems with the Shuttle was that it was designed for launching and recovering large payloads for the military. Missions which largely didn't materialize.

        It was much larger, more complicated and required more support personnel than should have been required for most of its missions.

        So I wouldn't use the Shuttle as proof that winged shuttles are generally more expensive to develop and require a high launch rate to amortize costs.

        The X-37 is an example of cheaper, more conservatively designed, although admittedly unmanned, space plane.

        And the Dream Chaser is an example of a promising manned space plane design.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Roger Strong (profile), 21 Apr 2016 @ 12:25pm

          Re: Re:

          > It was much larger, more complicated and required more support personnel than should have been required for most of its missions.

          It was all required for the Shuttle's primary mission: To keep the standing army of Apollo engineers, technicians and support crews employed.

          SLS has inherited this mission. And unfortunately, no other mission.

          > And the Dream Chaser is an example of a promising manned space plane design.

          Yup. Looking forward to it. It hasn't had a business case until now. But between the ISS commercial cargo and commercial crew and the upcoming Bigelow station, one is emerging.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Michael Ho (profile), 21 Apr 2016 @ 12:19pm

      Re: Space Shuttle...

      Actually, the Shuttle program re-used its solid rocket boosters...

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Solid_Rocket_Booster

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Roger Strong (profile), 21 Apr 2016 @ 12:32pm

        Re: Re: Space Shuttle...

        ...At greater cost than **not** reusing them.

        Still, as an X-vehicle for testing new technologies and tweaking them until they matured (like multiple generations of SRBs and main tanks), the Shuttle was an enormous success. But it should have been replaced by a more mature design from lessons learned 15 or so years earlier.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2016 @ 2:03pm

    DARPA Space Plane Challenge

    DARPA recently announced Phase-2 of it's Space Plane Challenge.

    The two primary goals of the challenge (as I see it) are to "fly 10 times in a 10-day period (not including weather, range and emergency delays) to demonstrate aircraft-like access to space" and "launch a 900- to 1,500-pound representative payload to demonstrate an immediate responsive launch capability".

    It's a shame that NASA killed the McDonnell Douglas DC-X project back in the '90s, otherwise we'd already have achieved this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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