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Space Shuttle or Spam Can?

Posted By:
Bob Herrick
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
72
Posts
27
#1 Posted: 11/2/2009 18:42:01

I saw the new rocket booster take off on its maiden flight the other day. Nice shot, everything went great, but aren't we retrograding back 40 years ago?

 Ok, we had two shuttle disasters. Challenger blew up because an O-ring failed on liftoff and heated up the external tank and it exploded. The Columbia disaster happened when a piece of foam came off the external tank at liftoff and hit the leading edge of the wing and put a hole in it. The hole wasn’t noticed which led to hot gases entering the wing on reentry which led to a fire in the wing, the wing failing and that let to the breakup of the spacecraft from aerodynamic forces.

 Neither disaster had anything to do with the shuttle being a bad design. Yet within the next year or so they will all be grounded and not used anymore. Then in five years or so the new manned missions will start again in a capsule, almost like the ones we had during the Apollo program.

 Now I know the current Shuttle can’t go to the moon. But maybe a second generation one could. Why don’t we design one that can? Or build more like the current ones with the upgrades they need so we can support the ISS or other space stations we might design for orbit around the Earth or the moon?

 I really think the space program is going backward instead of forward. Maybe we should forget about the A380 and 747 and go back to the DC3.

            



John Eiswirth
112
Posts
19
#2 Posted: 11/2/2009 19:27:49

    It is my view that the shuttle is the first class way to go; more capacity and more flexible but also more expensive to operate.  I think the capsules are more cost effective. Probably we could use some of both.  Anything is possible if you are prepared to throw enough money at it.  The government typically is not a great steward of money and there are many directions that our government is looking to expand spending.  The question isn't how much the taxpayers are willing to pay for; it's how much we are willing to put on the tab of our kids and our kids' kids tax bill. 

    We probably need to keep a few buses, but I don't think we need to run them when the mini-van will do.



Joel Cox
35
Posts
5
#3 Posted: 11/2/2009 19:40:44

I think that it's time to move on from the shuttle though. Look at how quickly we went through the first 3 programs at NASA, and compare that to the time that the STS program has been around. Sure, there are things that the shuttle can do (such as launch space station components), but there are still ways to do those things, for less money. Face it, we don't need something the size of a DC-9 to take three people to the space station all the time.

 

That said, I don't believe the Ares booster program is the way to go. The concept was to be cost effective, yet we are trying to retain as many space shuttle jobs as possible. The quickest, cheapest, and probably a better option, is to man rate either the Delta IV or Atlas V launch vehicles. The latter would be very hard for congress to authorize, because it uses essentially Russian built engines, and that would never get through the government. So, put the Orion capsule on a Delta IV vehicle, and then build something to get the stuff for going to the moon/mars.



Louis Knapp
Vintage Aircraft Association Member
23
Posts
16
#4 Posted: 11/2/2009 20:05:36

I've been thinking along the same line.

 

It was my impression that the original idea for spaceflight was some form of spaceplane, but that was sidetracked when we got in competition with the Russians, and took a shortcut to beat them to the Moon.  Accomplishing that goal in as short a time as we did is commendable, but I agree that returning to that technology is a step backwards when we can do better.

 

I'm no aerospace engineer, but it seems like we must have the improved materials and technology necessary to improve vastly on the early 80's vintage shuttles.  If we could just channel some of the engineering talent in this orginization I think we could come up with something both better and more cost effective than the current shuttle program, let alone going back to space capsules.

 

Like you say, the current Shuttle is a sound design.  It appears that the fault lies in how we're operating it.  Haste seems to have been the culprit in both accidents.  Why weren't we doing more thorough "pre-reentry" inspections?  Was it because we had no contingency plan for the event the orbiting shuttle was found to have been  rendered unairworthy during launch?

 

Let's keep the shuttle flying!....Louis

 

 



John Eiswirth
112
Posts
19
#5 Posted: 11/3/2009 22:42:29

Improved materials and technology?  Something better and more cost effective?  I wonder what Scaled Composites has up their sleeve next?



David King
63
Posts
54
#6 Posted: 11/4/2009 01:03:53

I think the shuttle has outlived it's life. The space program is 50 years old and the shuttle has been around for 30 of those years. It is a low orbit vehicle and outside of being able to glide back to earth provides nothing, besides heavy hauling. We need to move on to the moon and beyond. Unfortunately in this day and age cost is a factor. If we spent what we are on the wars for the space program we would be on the moon and mars. The shuttle is old technology lets move on.



Jerry Rosie
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
482
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101
#7 Posted: 11/4/2009 05:41:39

 . "If we spent what we are on the wars for the space program we would be on the moon and mars."

 

I wonder if we hadn't spent all that money on wars, if we'd even be talking about a space program.  But then, after 20 years in the military, maybe I'm biased....

 

 



Cheers, Jerry NC22375 out of 07N
Joel Cox
35
Posts
5
#8 Posted: 11/4/2009 10:25:27
Louis Knapp wrote:

 


It was my impression that the original idea for spaceflight was some form of spaceplane, but that was sidetracked when we got in competition with the Russians, and took a shortcut to beat them to the Moon.  Accomplishing that goal in as short a time as we did is commendable, but I agree that returning to that technology is a step backwards when we can do better.

 

I'm no aerospace engineer, but it seems like we must have the improved materials and technology necessary to improve vastly on the early 80's vintage shuttles.  If we could just channel some of the engineering talent in this orginization I think we could come up with something both better and more cost effective than the current shuttle program, let alone going back to space capsules.

 

Improved technology or not, there is a massive amount of weight wasted in a space plane type system ( ala STS). Even the heavy cargo hauling capability of the shuttle can be done with either a Delta IV Heavy, Atlas V or even a Proton.
 
If we want cost effective, the only way to go is back to a capsule. The space shuttle has entirely too much costs associated with processing it for flight. From re-building to the thermal protection system, to moving it from California to Florida, to constantly modifiying systems on the thing. The capsule system is the way to go. Much less dead weight, and cheaper costs. Remember, if we can't re-use it, we have to build a bunch of them. Economy's of scale comes into play, where the more we build, the cheaper the capsule will get

That said, the Ares booster is the complete opposite of the concept of low cost. Too much effort was put into keeping people from the STS program around. NASA has 2 current launch boosters that could easily be adapted to launch the Orion. Heck, in 3-4 years, private enterprise may have a system to get people to the space station, essentially making the low earth orbit portion of the Constellation system obsolete. Look up Space-X, and what they are doing with the Falcon 9,  Dragon cargo/passenger vehicle.



Brad Knapp
Homebuilder or Craftsman
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#9 Posted: 11/5/2009 18:40:56

Bob,

We're not retrograding 40 years at all.  Space plane designs are nice, but they ignore the fact that a spacecraft returning from a lunar mission or farther, will be traveling much, much faster.  The joule heating on the spacecraft structure upon reentry would fry a winged craft.  Only a blunt-shaped craft could withstand the heating from the intense slowdown required of a lunar or interplanetary spacecraft.  Shuttles in low earth orbit fly much slower by comparison.  Also, carrying "slow down burn" fuel all the way to the moon or Mars and back would be astronomically expensive.  That's why they're putting so much emphasis on finding ice on the moon and Mars right now....it costs something like $30,000 per liter of fluid (like your Disani water bottle at Airventure) just to get it to the moon for use.




 




David Darnell
61
Posts
18
#10 Posted: 11/5/2009 22:29:04

  Personally,  the correct answer is- we need both (and 1more).  Space Shuttle/ Spaceplane for hauling approx 25 people to  a LEO space station, and bringing back anything that needs brought back to earth.  A "heavy" lift  modular rocket that can be used for ferrying supplies to the station, and for launching larger items to LEO. Finally I think we need a set of  "taxi's" for trips  on further out- say from the station to the moon. 



Ray Hindle
Vintage Aircraft Association Member
53
Posts
24
#11 Posted: 11/6/2009 03:50:41 Modified: 11/6/2009 03:57:53

I would have thought that some form of cheap re-useable shuttlecraft for transiting to and from a way station in the Clark Orbit, and a space craft that never lands on Earth being used from there onwards.  Also needed is a different kind of shuttle for journeys to and from the space station to the moon as per the shuttlecraft used in Star Trek, these shuttlecraft also being used on board the space craft for planetary exploration.  I can still see immense problems with this concept though, particularly with cost and build of the space craft.

 



If we all flew, few would wish to drive
AJ Brandt
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerAirVenture Volunteer
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#12 Posted: 11/6/2009 12:13:14

I also watched the new Ares lift-off via NASA-TV. Not impressed at all. Take a shuttle solid fuel booster, add an vintage 60's rocket design, and hit the "launch button". How can we let our government digress decades back in technology? Having witnessed 3 shuttle launches and most recently, a landing at KSC in Florida this past May, it pains me to think of the day the shuttle's will no longer be flying. Yes they are an out-dated design, and yes, they've had their failures. What we need to do is look at the visionary, Burt Rutan, and give him a portion of NASA's budget, and let him and the engineers at Scaled do their thing. No govt. red tape, just let the designers and engineers be creative. How must our current astronauts feel about flying the new Ares? Probably not all that excited. Now ask the same question if they'd like to fly SpaceShipTwo... they probably would. The ball is already in motion to retire the shuttles, but I think our future in space lies in the hands and minds of private investors and cutting edge designers, and we as EAA members, can only encourage, help, and support those people.



Ray Hindle
Vintage Aircraft Association Member
53
Posts
24
#13 Posted: 11/6/2009 12:20:14

Of  course, the other alternative is the Space Elevator.

 

Can Scientists Make a Space Elevator 



If we all flew, few would wish to drive
Brad Knapp
Homebuilder or Craftsman
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#14 Posted: 11/6/2009 12:50:34 Modified: 11/11/2009 02:43:30

AJ,

 

Burt's our Great One, and I've got pictures of him and Voyager, SS1 etc on my wall in the mancave in the basement.  But what Burt will gloss over at his big forums at Airventure, are the problems associated with returning from orbital flight, which is considered his next step for tourism.  It won't be a shuttlecock, high drag, low ballistic coefficient return vehicle as in the case of SS1 and SS2.  Burt will look quite a bit more like NASA in his designs......you have to design in the ability to disspate the tremendous kinetic energy when the vehicle hits the atmosphere.

 

Who knows what he'll come up with....I'm hoping for something unique, as does any other fan of his.  Still, beating up NASA in the narrow area of design ideas, and thinking "Burt can do it...he can do anything..." ignores the fact that his suborbital craft are apples and oranges to anything orbiting the earth, to say the least. Remember too, Burt quietly abandoned airplane canards, his trademark for quite a while...if they were even a fraction more efficient than a conventional design, Boeing and Airbus would have been all over them.  Now, if you want to discuss NASA's bureaucracy, cost, delays, etc, etc....I'm right with you.

 

Cheers.

 

 

 

 

 

 



Jim Baumann
Vintage Aircraft Association MemberWarbirds of America Member
62
Posts
40
#15 Posted: 11/6/2009 13:15:04

SAFETY...the capsule has a much better escape envelope and crew survivability ability than the Shuttle ever has.



"I Fly because it releases my mind from they tyranny of petty things" ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Andrew Ovans
Young Eagles Pilot or VolunteerAirVenture Volunteer
133
Posts
39
#16 Posted: 11/11/2009 10:54:07

I guess I feel like the shuttle should live on forever when in reality it is just another flying machine that is past its prime and no longer the "safest" means of travel. It is my own selfishness that I wish we could see em fly forever. This is another aircraft I will hate to see retired but I think it has to be this way. If my kids can't see a launch, at least they could see one in a museum some day. If they kept pushing and pushing, we may loose another due to people like me who hate to see it go. As long as NASA continues space programs, I really could care less how they get there. Much like the    F-117, F-14, and many others they all must be put away sometime I guess. I think it is a matter of time, but they will eventually realize they may need another shuttle down the road.

IIRC $30,000 for Dasani water is the case price at Airventure......



www.tailwindflightcenter.com Flightline Aeronautics LLC
Ron Wanttaja
246
Posts
98
#17 Posted: 11/14/2009 12:29:35

The biggest problem, of course, is the economic incentive:  No Bucks, No Buck Rogers.  A man-rated space plane just isn't economically viable. 

Rockets are dangerous... there's a quote attributed to Von Braun that goes, “There is a very fine line between a rocket and a bomb...the finer the line, the better the rocket!”  If you put a human being on the rocket, everything gets much more complicated as you try to keep that bomb from going off.  Make that man-carrying rocket capable of operating in space and you've made your design problem much more expensive.  Demand that the man-carrying rocket also function as an aircraft, and the price tag goes up even further.  Add to that the need that the spacecraft needs to re-enter the atmosphere at Mach 25, and shove the decimal point a few more spaces to the right.

 

Now... to those design requirements, add the need to make the system reusable...so that you can recover the "bomb," refurbish it, put humans back into it, and shove it back into space with no additional risks over that of the first flight.

So, you've got your Shuttle Mark II sitting on the ramp ready to fly.  How will it earn back its multi-billion-dollar price tag?  Note that, depending on the satellite size, a customer can currently put its spacecraft into orbit for $25M or so.  How do you compete with that?

Transportation to the Space Station?  The Russians do that quite comfortably and quite cheaply now, with 1970s technology.

The only thing left is space tourism.  It sounded like a great idea in 2005, but how has the current economic conditions affected the market?  The vehicles can be much cheaper because they don't have to re-enter at Mach 25, but their use is limited to thrill rides.  Performance-wise, they're as good as Mercury-Redstone...fifty-year-old capability that NASA abandoned in 1961. We can remember the "Barnstormers" of the 1920s fondly, but it was the carriage of mail and passengers that eventually brought aviation into the mainstream.

 

I love space (been working in aerospace since I graduated from college 30 years ago), I love the Shuttle, but the sad truth is, a replacement is no more economically viable than the Shuttle itself was. 

Ron Wanttaja


 



Ron Wanttaja
Michael Cook
Young Eagles Pilot or Volunteer
26
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#18 Posted: 11/15/2009 00:27:50

I ask an astronaut that same question when I worked at the Huntsville Space and rocket center, to Story Musgrove. And you have to thing about this, if we up grade the shuttle we have now. That means more fuel for the new weight. And more fuel means more money. It also means more room. Now your talking a big shuttle. So it's not a good idea to upgrade the one we have now.

But right now Nasa is looking to save money and one way to do that is downgrade to a single rocket with renewable parts., So though it may seem like you are stepping back in history it really isn't. My biggest thing about the whole rocket thing is anyone or anyTHING can fly it. If Im not mistaken I think we had monkey's flying before man, So in reality you can have any ole person fly it which takes away from the pilot factor. 


But we see this new rocket is to take us forword and be the next big thing. And with the things that we know now. The craft is going to be better then before.

Michael

 



Anyone can fly but it takes a Pilot to land!
Steve Kessinger
Homebuilder or Craftsman
12
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#19 Posted: 11/21/2009 14:44:27 Modified: 11/21/2009 14:55:36

 2 words: Direct Launch 

 

  If you want to get into geek level engineering, here's where the people designing it hang out. http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?board=37.0

 

 
800px-Commonality_DIRECT.jpg