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208 weeks ago @ The Space Review: essa... - The Space Review: Spac... · 0 replies · +2 points

I misspoke, it was GD, but did you know a man named David Stevens? He was an electronics bench worker who worked his way up the line. He would build the first version of some design, educating young engineers as he went. As far as I know, he would not take the title of manager, but he certainly held the position on Atlas rebuild. At the end of his career, he was offered a senior position over all electronics, but retired instead and did not live too much longer. In his spare time, he was Shrine photographer for Southern California.

210 weeks ago @ The Space Review: essa... - The Space Review: Spac... · 1 reply · +3 points

My first father-in-law was in charge of Atlas rebuild for orbit while they were still pulling the birds out of the corn fields. He could not talk much about his work, but he did comment that many of the parts could no longer be obtained from the original suppliers. The birds had to be stripped down to parts and then reassembled with either new parts or properly tested old ones. He essentially had an eidetic memory, and could keep track of almost every part of several birds. McDonnell knew they would have to put in several computer systems to replace him, so they worked very hard to keep him until that program was finished. He had to work very hard to keep security from finding out that he occasionally talked in his sleep. I know he retired early, but I don't know whether he made it to the end of the program. Does anyone know when the last war birds were converted.

210 weeks ago @ The Space Review: essa... - The Space Review: Spac... · 0 replies · +2 points

And now NASA is developing the SLS/Orion. I yield to your description of NASA's rocket development strokes.

Frankly, your description of the cross-range requirement was the most cogent I have seen. It still does not justify the monstrosity that the shuttle became. There were many other choices other than wings. What you have made clear is that the shuttle basically destroyed all other lines of development until the EELV program and as it turned out, that was anything but forward looking. The SSME and the RL-10, though wonderful engines, are very old technology and expensive to boot. I won't comment further on the use of Russian engines as it speaks for itself. Boeing can't put the CST-100 into orbit without that Russian engine or a very expensive Delta IV.

Now we are trying to produce new engines, but despite the fact that they are methane based, they are essentially modified copies of what we already have. At the time the shuttle shut down all other lines of development, it is my understanding that we had whole series of tests on aerospike engines up to a level of 250,000 lbs. of thrust and for extended firings( (http://boeing.mediaroom.com/2001-08-10-Boeing-and-NASA-Complete-Dual-Aerospike-Engine-Tests)(http://boeing.mediaroom.com/2001-08-10-Boeing-and-NASA-Complete-Dual-Aerospike-Engine-Tests)(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerospike_engine)). Aerospike engines appear to weigh a fraction of conventional rockets and have no need for special bells to function in atmosphere and in vacuum. I can only assume that all that expertise has long disappeared, requiring a relearning process. Considering how little funding that it had in the first effort, one would think that redevelopment could only cost a few billion, even at current efficiencies. Hopefully NASA or whichever group did the first work can dig out their archives to short circuit the process.

To speak to your final proposal, "let the best program win and the other guy will become a user", I find that admirable but unlikely. It is hard to get Congress to fund any decent program let alone competing ones. Maybe we can get Congress to put out enough for a private competition, with the winner getting the contract for enough rockets to pay off the cost of development. Now I'm dreaming out loud and should be scolded for such foolishness. Instead, Congress is feeding the current monopoly funds to develop a new engine for ULA's new Vulcan rocket, most of which is being gifted to them by a billionaire who has far more funds than Elon. It still is not carrying us forward.

210 weeks ago @ The Space Review: essa... - The Space Review: Spac... · 1 reply · +2 points

Wings, wings, always wings. Between AF desires for something to "fly" and NSA payload and dimension requirements and NASA HSF requirements, the shuttle was the proverbial critter designed by a committee. The fact that it ever took off is a small miracle. The need for wings in something that spent far less than one percent of its life in the atmosphere causes anyone with a brain to have a migraine. The need to have a bit of cross range capability could have been answered by some orbital engines powered by a navigation module that could be shed on descent. Astronauts could have ridden in a far safer capsule ahead of all that fuel. Returnable loads could have been contained in cargo modules with their own descent shields. With just a little planning, the much lighter cargo container with the astronauts at the front could have been lofted into orbit to build a space station, with exit and entry at the front where the capsule would detach. That would have allowed for a much larger capsule capable of carrying 7-20 astronauts with provisions for a short to medium stay in independent orbit.

To get back to the basic decision to build the shuttle, there is no set of physics that can justify shoving around 250,00 pounds into orbit and returning at least 200,000, which is a very basic description of the shuttle at its most efficient level. Most of the time it had payloads that were nowhere near its maximum in either size or mass, but it had wings. As I have said before, quit defending the indefensible.

The way to have DOD and NASA work together is to give them a fixed budget and tell them that all their careers depend on their effective and efficient performance of projects, with major documentation needed for overruns. The project teams would be separated from any other command than the project lead.

213 weeks ago @ The Space Review: essa... - The Space Review: Blas... · 0 replies · +1 points

It appears that SpaceX wants all the business it can launch. The bells and whistles you speak of are mostly insurance, which just raises the cost of the launch and would do so for any company doing the same payload. If the payload can fit in the faring or capsule/trunk and the rocket can reach the required orbit, there are no further bells and whistles.

214 weeks ago @ The Space Review: essa... - The Space Review: Revi... · 0 replies · +1 points

Education about science is necessary and important, but this appears to be more likely a continuation of Tyson's career than it is a continuation of the educational process. I have enjoyed much of what he has done, but repetition at less and less sophisticated levels does not endear him to me. Where is something to fire the imagination of even youngsters who are exposed to the same pablum on a regular basis. Where are dreams of life in space and populating of the Moon, asteroids, and even Mars? How about telescopes on the Moon or in various orbits? Imaginations need to be stretched.

215 weeks ago @ The Space Review: essa... - The Space Review: Blas... · 0 replies · +1 points

The sainted Atlas V had a hiccup earlier this year that was only covered because the Centaur had sufficient fuel to finish the job. If the programmers for the Dragon had been thinking, the Dragon on top of the first F9 failure would have survived. That is the difference between six decades of launches and less than two. The problem with the six decades is that they have been sitting on their laurels for a while, going back and forth between NASA and the DOD and even then, they couldn't come up with an engine of their own on which they could make a big enough profit. ULA has been sending off nine Atlas V's per year for the last three years and fewer than that before. The other half of ULA has been shipping out four or less Delta IV's per year. Two giant aerospace companies, working together, which comprise ULA, cannot do as much as a single company far smaller than either one of them separately. Until this latest issue, SpaceX had already successfully launched eight birds and were scheduled to send off 8-9 more this year. That is unlikely to be fulfilled at this point, but with the manifest, that pace is likely to resume sooner rather than later. To put a blunt point on it, with the extra $1.6 billion Boeing is receiving for the CST-100 and Commercial Crew over what SpaceX is receiving for Dragon V2, SpaceX could launch almost 26 F9's at list price, presumably with a profit to SpaceX, unless SpaceX is trying to make up for losses on individual birds by selling more of them at a loss. SpaceX could also use that money to further develop the F9 and especially the 2nd stage manufacturing process. Boeing on the other hand basically said that if they didn't get the money they couldn't and wouldn't produce the CST-100. With all their experience, the CST-100 should have been a fairly trivial product, but Boeing knew that the whole program would collapse if Congress didn't see what they thought was a real competition. I call that blackmail and absolute proof that Boeing/ULA are the ones milking the government. Neither NASA nor the DOD care whether SpaceX exists other than as a lever to get them more money. See the 100's of millions of dollars that are going to help Aerojet-Rocketdyne and Lockheed-Blue-Origin to develop replacement engines for the Air Force. Where is the money for SpaceX's methane-LOX engine? A pittance with a required 2:1 contribution from SpaceX which they are far exceeding. A full engine is currently under test with a spec that matches the Air Force requirement. Bezos claims that there is no government money involved, but his partner is getting plenty.

Every effort has been made to disadvantage SpaceX without appearing to actually do so. By ordinary standards, SpaceX should be completely dominating the launch business and driving their competitors to either match them or go out of business. Even with the occasional failure, SpaceX is far less expensive, and the only thing sustaining the competition is the government in the form of the DOD and NASA. If they want true competition and a lively and healthy launch market entirely dominated by the USA, SLS/Orion should be cancelled and the government owned technology, such as it is, turned over to all the remaining launch companies for free. Then, use half of that funding for developing for BEO payloads and the rest for competitive contracts for required technology development for a permanent presence in space. Maintain the ISS until it can be replaced by a maintenance, construction, assembly, and refueling facility for BEO missions and the aforementioned permanent presence. With companies like Bezos and Elon have and others, and the remains of ULA when it has bankrupted or split up or really consolidated, there should be a rich competitive marketplace to sustain our space efforts for NASA and the DOD.

215 weeks ago @ The Space Review: essa... - The Space Review: Blas... · 2 replies · +2 points

Who else in the industry does a full dress rehearsal in which the rocket actually fires its engines? The answer is nobody, so the rest of them send there payloads off on a rocket that may not fire properly in a way that could destroy the payload or put it into an useless orbit. All other systems integrate the payload with the rocket and then just fire the rocket. Overall, the SpaceX technique should improve the odds of a successful launch rather than decrease them. Every time a rocket is pulled down from the pad and worked with in any manner, the odds increase that something that happens in that reset process will damage the rocket. In addition, a rocket without payload is not a full test of launch readiness.

The statement above about attacks on any failure is absolutely correct. It is as if SpaceX deliberately failed to design their rocket and their testing procedures to catch this problem. As if any set of persons would do such. Nonsense. We all await the resolution of this hiccup. Problem it is, disaster it isn't.

215 weeks ago @ The Space Review: essa... - The Space Review: Blas... · 0 replies · 0 points

Priceless means that everyone is doing their very best to make things work properly. ULA cannot promise to be able to continue to boost anything with the Atlas V because they do not control the source of their main engine. Changing that engine means basically an all new rocket with the need to again prove reliability. By design, the Boeing capsule and system is less safe than the Dragon, though usage will determine which is more desirable. The F9 may be the only rocket available to boost either of the capsules and the Sierra Nevada. That is unacceptable. ULA cannot produce any rocket at a price that can begin to compete with the F9, so the F9 is likely to supplant all launchers but those subsidized by some government. That prediction depends on an expanding launch market where further expansion depends on cost to move into a broader marketplace.

215 weeks ago @ The Space Review: essa... - The Space Review: Blas... · 0 replies · +2 points

Above and beyond what I have seen discussed is the apparent general source of this problem...the second stage. Both incidents for the SpaceX F9 package have been in that second stage and I understand that efforts to make the second stage reusable have been dropped, at least riding on the current 1st stage. That means that every F9 launch, with or without a reused 1st stage, will be on a new 2nd stage. One of the advantages of reusing a rocket stage is that it has been flight proven. The multiple mission length firings of a recovered stage indicate that such stages are quite durable and will require little refurbishment between missions.

The already proven pad abort capability of the Dragon V2 should relieve most worries that people have thrown up about this occurrence for crew operations. I suspect that the cause of this will turn out to be relatively simple and may not be in the rocket at all, so the main delay in further flights will be due to reconstruction of the launch facilities. No matter how you slice it, riding a rocket is like putting a saddle on a bomb.