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August 13, 2011

NASA Langley considers liquids for MLAS

An article at Examiner (via), poorly sourced, reports that the Langley center (home of HL-20, Morpheus, and other innovative programs) is considering swapping out the solid for liquid engines for Max Launch Abort System. The most notably feature of this development for me is how they only got around to it after Boeing and SpaceX started development of liquid-fueled abort systems for CST-100 and Dragon respectively. In case of Boeing, test firings were already carried out in order to qualify the existing "Bantam" engine that they plan to appropriate for the program. SpaceX are aiming to leverage their "Draco" engine experience with a "SuperDraco", and preparing for the tests. For many years NASA was expected to be the technology leader by default, but no more.

Note that I am agnostic regarding the MLAS itself, or its switch to liquid power. Initiated by Mike Griffin's famous napkin sketch, MLAS was a clear loser to the traditional tower system developed by Orbital under the management of Marshall center. It was much heavier than the tower and turned out ridiculously complex once Mike's vision was applied to the real spacecraft. It was only kept alive by NASA launchers being so ridiculously tall, that they would not fit into the Vehicle Assembly Building with the tower installed. The commercial systems from Boeing and SpaceX derive the advantage from being built into the respective spacecraft. But MLAS is separate from Orion. Due to the excellent efficiency of modern solid fuels, and the necessity to use inefficient pressure-fed liquid engines, there's not going to be an outright performance advantage. So, whatever. I just find it amusing how NASA is following the lead of commercial upstarts.

UPDATE: Gary C. Hudson commented "It's only an attitude control thruster, not main LAS propulsion."

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July 13, 2011

Lindsey on Zubrin

In the context of Dr. Zubrin suddenly deciding that super-mega-heavy lifter is not necessary to reach Mars after all, Clark Lindsey remarked on May 23:

It's long been clear that the one and only thing that matters to Mr. Zubrin is to get a human mission heading to Mars as soon as possible. Pursuing advances such as building up a commercial human spaceflight industry that provides low cost access to orbit, developing an in-space infrastructure, using the Moon to learn how to do in situ resource utilization, finding ways to deal with human factor issues (particularly radiation & microgravity health effects), etc. is all a waste of time to him. However, as seen by his recent WSJ essay on a Mars mission with the commercial SpaceX Falcon Heavy, he is quick to take advantage of such advances when they are near at hand. I'm sure that once propellant depots and other such systems are in operation, he will no doubt incorporate them as well into new Mars mission schemes. And the abuse he hurled at such efforts and at the people who supported them will be long forgotten.

This flexibility undermines Dr. Zubrin's attacks on VASIMR. If VASIMR suddenly works, no doubt it's going to be a centerpiece of then-in-vogue Mars Drirect Mk.XXIII architecture. Not that I'm a fan of plasma-electric propulsion with non-existing magnets, but just saying.

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July 10, 2011

flying: Spaceport America is charted

I noticed that the runway of Spaceport America is depicted at sectional chart now. Private, of course! For those not in the know, it means that I cannot land on it without a prior permission even when the restricted area R-5111A is not active. Taxpayer money well spent, I guess.

UPDATE 2011/09/24: Dr. William M. Gutman told me that FAA is considering a proposal to create a "keyhole" corridor through the restricted airspace.

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January 13, 2011

NASA HLV (SLS) and Congress

The tragi-comedy of the unnecessary pork rocket continues with the report delivered this week, which says that when congressional porksters decided to play rocket scientists and mandated an SDV design by law, they come up with a plan that is impossible in time or budget. The commentary is a riot.

Now of course DIRECT people will cry that if NASA built their design from the beginning, instead of the retardo corndog rocket Griffin made them build, they would've been half-way there by now, and 2015 service date would have been assured even with the old budget. They may even be right. DIRECT made lots more sense than Ares. But all that misses the main point (maybe intentionally): the nation already has perfectly good rockets in Atlas and Delta (and now Falcon). The one-shot capacity of 100+ tonnes is not needed when 90% of what you lift is propellant anyway!

Not that anyone in Congress actually wanted to accomplish anything in space. They just want "jobs". And when they noticed that NASA might just start accomplishing something after Obama's cancellation of Constellation, they rushed into action and passed a law prohibiting NASA from doing it. And now NASA's report says the law cannot override reality. That is the gist of it.

UPDATE: In Rand's post, Keith Cowing is quoted as this:

During its recent deliberations the HEFT II activity look at a variety of scenarios, reference missions etc. One of them, DM1, actually meets the costs and schedule specified by Congress. DM1 entails creation and use of an in-space propellant depot and refueling capability. It also makes use of EELVs and other commercial launch assets. But forces within NASA ESMD personnel – led by Doug Cooke – have purposefully sat on such ideas and have made certain that they were scrubbed from presentation charts and reports to Congress and other “stakeholders”. Charlie Bolden is aware of this tactic.

UPDATE: Amazing quote on Spaceflight Now:

Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who flew aboard the shuttle in 1986 and who played a major role in adding the near-term requirement to build the new launch systems, said in a statement late Wednesday that NASA's answer was not good enough.

"I talked to (NASA Administrator) Charlie Bolden yesterday and told him he has to follow the law, which requires a new rocket by 2016," Nelson said late Wednesday. "And, NASA has to do it within the budget the law requires."

This is quite funny really. First of all, note that SpaceX developed Falcon 9 since 2005, or 5 years, on a budget of 500 million give or take, minus Dragon and Falcon 1. So, I can see what Senators are thinking. NASA receives 20+ billion each year, of which half goes to ESAS. Over the period of 5 years that is 50 billion, or almost exactly 100 times more money than SpaceX spent over the 5 year period (same as 2011 to 2016), and they produced a working rocket. If SpaceX can build a rocket in 5 years, surely NASA could do it too (100 times more money is the usual government overhead)! Where is the catch?

Of course the NASA SLS is, 10 times bigger than Falcon 9 (100t vs 10t class). One would think that explains things. But just to make it all even more funny, SpaceX came forward with a proposal for a next-generation Falcon. Basically Musk said: "Look guys, it's clear that you're effin impotent and incapable of building rockets. But you have money. How about you give us a small part of your money, like maybe 5 billion, and we'll give you a rocket that is every bit as good as your SLS fantasies, by 2016. You keep the remaining 45 billion and pretend doing something useful, I dunno, some telescopes or rovers or whatever, and don't interfere. Then, everyone's happy, even Congress." NASA is considering (SpaceX is one of the 13 companies mentioned above).

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December 10, 2010

Zubrin lowballs

In his "The New Sputnik" article, Dr. Bob Zubrin states:

The Falcon-9 medium-lift booster (capable of launching 10 tons to orbit) and Dragon capsule (potentially capable of upgrade to transporting up to 7 astronauts) system was created on a combined budget on the order of two hundred million dollars.

To the best of my knowledge, this is simply not true. Before Dec.8, COTS paid out 253 million to SpaceX. However, one of conditions of the contract was for the winning companies to finance about half of their expenses from other sources. So, there were another 250 million, although I am not certain what counts towards it. Elon invested about 100 millions out of pocket, his friends gave 35 and 60 millions in two rounds (and perhaps more). The government of Malaysia paid about 11 million for a launch of Falcon 1. There were other payments, too. For instance Elon said that a U.S. government agency, unnamed, but other than NASA, fully bankrolled the previous, test launch of Falcon 9 (that would be about 40 millions). Some of this counts towards the mandated 250 millions mentioned above, some was before and could not count. All in all, a reasonable estimate floating in the press was about 600 million dollars. Even if it is off, it cannot be as low as 200 million. No way no how.

UPDATE 2011/02/10: Tim Hughes, VP and Chief Counsel, SpaceX said at FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference that to date, SpaceX spent $800 million in total, of which $600 million spent on Falcon 9 and Dragon program.

UPDATE 2011/05/04: Elon Musk has made the following statements (in rolling updates, permalink to follow):

The total company expenditures since being founded in 2002 through the 2010 fiscal year were less than $800 million, which includes all the development costs for the Falcon 1, Falcon 9 and Dragon. Included in this $800 million are the costs of building launch sites at Vandenberg, Cape Canaveral and Kwajalein, as well as the corporate manufacturing facility that can support up to 12 Falcon 9 and Dragon missions per year. This total also includes the cost of five flights of Falcon 1, two flights of Falcon 9, and one up and back flight of Dragon.

The Falcon 9 launch vehicle was developed from a blank sheet to first launch in four and half years for just over $300 million.

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December 02, 2010

Elon aims to embed SpaceX into Space-Industrial Complex

The article at Aviation Week ought to dispel last doubts that SpaceX is somehow a part of NewSpace anymore (let alone alt.space). Check this out:

"The physics is the easiest problem, but the economics and politics are quite pernicious. Any attempt at a solution that doesn’t try to satisfy those three constituencies—forget it," says Musk.

Under SpaceX’s proposal, NASA would have overall systems oversight, and integration would be driven by Marshall Space Flight Center. "That would be a good way to go," says Musk, who adds that "the only logical place" for final vehicle assembly remains Kennedy Space Center. "When you build a vehicle that big, it minimizes logistics; you can re-use the space shuttle pads and conceivably even make the tanks at Michoud [the current external tank facility in Huntsville, Ala.]."

MSFC did not exactly cover themselves with glory by selecting one of the worst possible Schuttle follow-up designs. But Elon is a-ok with serving them, becaus of "economics and politics". And the question if the super-heavy is even needed does not arise at all. It's all good as long as SpaceX gobbles the most of the government contractor gravy.

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June 03, 2010

Stephen Clark noticed the elephant

Nice quote at the bottom of an article at Spaceflight Now:

Lost in the debate is the presence of more established companies like United Launch Alliance, which oversees Atlas and Delta rocket flights, and Orbital Sciences Corp., SpaceX's main competitor in the market for cargo services to the space station.

"When it comes to the commercial crew activity that everybody's talking about, what's missing from most of the public discussion is the Atlas 5 is the rocket of choice for many competitors in the field," Alexander said. "That Atlas 5 has flown 21 or 22 times successfully in a row. When we look at SpaceX, they are achieving quite a lot and should definitely be applauded for it, but we have established companies with existing rockets ready to be used for putting people on top."

When Falcon 9 fails tomorrow, the thieves in Congress are going to present it as a proof that the commercial services are not to be trusted. This is why they and their lapdogs pretend that SpaceX is the only commercial spaceflight company.

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April 19, 2010

Ed Kyle misses the point completely

Ed Kyle is known firstly for his command of facts and space trivia, and secondly for his command of numbers. His latest article displays it well, in fact he pars it down for brievity. I saw him doing more precise, project-like calculations than that before. But all this capability is for naught for the simple reason: he completely misses the point.

And it starts so well.

NASA's now-canceled Constellation Program died because the U.S. government was unable, or unwilling, to pay its costs - and the costs were considerable. Last year's Augustine Committee estimated that NASA's budget would have to be increased by at least $3 billion per year to even begin to make the program possible.

Indeed, the program as it existed was impossible. And "begin" is really an example of wishful thinking.

A traditional way to fit a big government program, usually an overrun program, into a limited budget is to slow the program down - to build fewer fighter jets or submarines than originally planned, for example. It was not possible to slow down the Constellation Program in this way, since its launch rate was already at a minimum given its huge fixed costs. Billions of dollars would have been needed each year to support the manufacturing and launch infrastructure of Ares I, Ares V, Orion, and Altair, whether or not any astronauts walked on the Moon.

Exactly. But then...

A lower-cost, slower-rate program might be possible if those fixed costs were slashed. What is the most obvious way to cut fixed costs? First, use existing launch systems. Second, fly less frequently to the Moon, to spread the costs over time. Rather than two landings per year, consider one landing every two years, for example. Third, drop the grandiose plans for a lunar base and fly sortie missions instead.

Suppose we can do that. But what would be the point?!

Since the purpose of deep space human exploration is national prestige, the number of landings performed in any given time-frame is almost irrelevant. Just as the quadrennial Olympics garner worldwide attention, one landing every-other year would garner more public attention than two every year.

The whole idea of recreating Apollo-style "flag and footprints" missions is pure nonsense. Apollo itself had a reason to exist: to demonstrate that America was superior to Soviets (at any cost). And now? Doing a lame Apollo that cannot even fly there twice a year only demonstrates that modern America is weaker than the America of the past.

The rest of the article is simply wasted because it is dedicated to another way to recreate Apollo (perhaps even an inventive one), and we do not need that.

The only reason for the government manned space program to exist at all is to open the space for all of us. And that only can be done by dramatically reducing the launch costs, etc. etc. I am sure Ed is familiar with the cost-based reasoning, but he is simply wilfully blind to it. In denial.

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April 17, 2010

Rand's collection of Republican cluelessness

I was not the only one who noticed the absurdity of supposed Republicans attacking the private enterprise while defending the failed government plan. Rand Simberg was collecting the most idiotic knee-jerk, oppose Obama no matter what, reactions to the new NASA policy.

Exhibit 1: American Thinker:

The symbolism is breathtaking. From now on, whenever we remember with pride the courage and sacrifice of the Mercury astronauts, or Neil Armstrong taking “One small step for a man, one giant step for mankind,” or Jim Lovell and the crew of Apollo 13 calmly tinkering with duct tape to repair their capsule, we’ll quickly deflate with the afterthought: “Oh yeah. Now the Russians do that. We don’t.” There will always be a punchline, an asterisk, an anti-climactic stain at the end of the story.

Rand says: "Hey, lady? News flash. That was the Bush administration policy."

Exhibit 2: Fox News:

Until American companies come to market with commercial rockets and launch vehicles to replace the shuttle, the only nation ever to put a man on the Moon won't even be able to put a man into orbit. And that, experts tell FoxNews.com, has the potential to be a "tragic mistake," one that could hold America's astronauts in orbit hostage to the whims of the Kremlin.

Which is of course would be the result if Obama did not cancel Constellation. As it is, the gap is going to be reduced, when Griffin's program resulted in the gap growing.

Fox also sees fit to give a hearing to people like congressional pokemeisters and heavy-lift fetishists:

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and others have proposed extending the shuttle's life beyond the last three flights scheduled this year. Hutchison wants the shuttle extended two years while NASA develops a new heavy-lift rocket replacement.

And they saved plain bullshitters for the last paragraph:

Lord Monckton believes the Obama plan will be harmful to U.S. defense interests as well, since the U.S. launch capability is now quite limited. "The administration's change of policy in space was calculated to do maximal damage to the defense interests of the U.S., and without even yielding a financial saving," Monckton told FoxNews.com.

Just how gullible does he think we are? Neither Shuttle nor Ares were going to launch any national security payloads. In fact, forcing NASA to use EELVs would make EELVs cheaper due to better flight rate; perhaps removing the mulled downselect to one, which would actually make U.S. launch capability more limited.

Un-freaking-believeable. But, back to Republicans...

Exhibit 3: Investors Business Daily:

Let's forget that the next men, or women, to walk on the moon will likely be Chinese.

It would be very scary if not for one fact: the old program that Obama cancelled was not going to get us to the Moon. Materials of the Augustine commission made it very plain. Everyone is pretending as if Constellation workded and only needed a little more money. It was not working and was not going to work without an injection of another 80 BILLIONS. And maybe not even then.

By moving commericial, Obama makes manned lunar exploration more likely to happen, not less.

Speaking of jobs, the cancellation of Constellation could lead to thousands of layoffs at some of America's biggest aerospace contractors, including Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

Are we supposed to cry about that? I mean, seriously... If these people are worth anything, they'll find jobs with Orbital and SpaceX. If not, well, let them work on something useful for a change.

Honestly, I expected more from IBD. But in the end they were no better than Fox. Good to know. Although, they did not bash the enterpreneurial space companies at least, so maybe they are fractionally better.

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April 11, 2010

Jim Muncy's remarks at Space Access 10

From Hobbyspace (under Space Transport News), remarks by Jim Muncy:

- Life long Republican but endorsed Hillary Clinton who had the best space policy. Obama has run with it.
- How crazy it is for President Obama to privatize space launch while Republicans are attacking it.
- Republicans support capitalism within the atmosphere but not above it.
- Most solid and profound set of space policy changes.
- Incredible change here.
- Should take more credit for it.
- Some have told him that we lost the Moon - but we gained the Solar System.
- We were never going to get there with Constellation.
- Can't believe it when people say it is the end of US human spaceflight.
- Abandoning Cold War program that is only for govt.
- Now space is for all of us.
- Amazed that all the members of the Augustine panel agreed that expanding humans into the solar system was the purpose of the human spaceflight program.

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February 26, 2010

Burt Rutan on NASA, bis

Poor Burt was spun by the MSM as it often happens, so he attempted to fight back with an open letter. The Burt vs. Paparazzi angle to this story was widely reported, but I would like to concentrate on actual point he is trying to make wrt the now-being-cancelled Constellation (via Flight Global):

In short, it is a good idea indeed for the commercial community to compete to re-supply the ISS and to bring about space access for the public to enjoy. I applaud the efforts of SpaceX, Virgin and Orbital in that regard and feel these activities should have been done at least two decades ago. However, I do not see the commercial companies taking Americans to Mars or to the moons of Saturn within my lifetime and I doubt if they will take the true Research risks (technical and financial) to fly new concepts that have low confidence of return on investment. Even NASA, regarded as our prime Research agency has not recently shown a willingness to fly true Research concepts.

For years I have stated that a NASA return-to-moon effort must include true Research content, i.e. testing new concepts needed to enable forefront Exploration beyond the moon. The current Ares/Orion does not do that. While I have been critical of Constellation for that reason, I do not think that NASA should 'give up' on manned spaceflight, just that they should be doing it while meeting the 1) or 2) criteria above.

The way Griffin toys ate the rest of NASA was perhaps not widely enough reported (e.g. the closure of NIAC).

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February 25, 2010

John Carmack on Obama's plan for NASA

An article in an unusual place says things with which I find it difficult to disagree, like so:

For years now, whenever a reporter asked me what I thought about returning to the moon with the country’s existing Constellation technology, I said something along the lines of “It’s like watching a slow motion train wreck. It isn’t going to end well.”

I have an excellent working relationship with the parts of NASA that my company deals with, but honestly, I thought the program was going to drag on for another half decade and piss away several more tens of billions of dollars before being re-scoped due to failure to deliver.

This is a rather important point. NASA fanboys (e.g. Mike Pinto) like to pretend that it was only a question of funding. But in fact NASA demonstrated its impotency, which was impossible to fix with money. A structural reform was needed.

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February 16, 2010

I correct NYT

Quoting New York Times:

Much of the launching pad seems like it was assembled during a scavenger hunt. A 125,000-gallon liquid oxygen tank from the Apollo era was bought for $86,000 — the price of scrap metal — and refurbished. SpaceX bought some rusty railroad cars that NASA had used to transport hydrogen and refurbished those, too.

Why would SpaceX store and transport carloads of hydrogen, if their hydrogen stage is 3 years away from flight, if that?

The answer is, Mr. Kenneth Chang confused hydrogen and helium, and the vaunted layers of editors and fact-checkers missed it.

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February 12, 2010

"You, Sir, are dealing in demagogy and faggotry"

Saw a brilliant argument for the HLV at NK forums today:

Вы занимаетесь демагогией и пидоризмом. Уж извините так оно и есть.
Двупуск пилотируемого корабля на Луну - Вы все видите. Мое ИМХО - так делать плохо. ПК должен лететь в однопуск.
Советую - вместо злобы подумайтео реальности.

In my approximate translation:

You, Sir are dealing in demagogy and faggotry. Sorry, but that's how it is.
Two-launch of a crewed spaceship to the Mooon, all known to you. My IMHO - it's a bad way. Crewed ship has to fly in one launch.
My suggestion to you - instead of nasty, think about the reality.

One would think this soft of language to be reserved for discussions of merits of feminism, Apple iPad, labor unions, or Brett Favre, not for pondering the tradeoffs between various lunar mission architectures. But hey, it's the Internet.

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February 05, 2010

ISS' windows and Cupola

The BBC Spaceman discussed today the upcoming launch of Cupola, and neglected to mention that ISS already has a rather big window in the Destiny. Certainly, Cupola is a superior piece of hardware. For one thing, its main window is bigger at 80cm diameter than Destiny's 50cm. For another, Destiny's window sits flush, even somewhat recessed, against the outside mould of the station. Still, it's an evolutionary step.

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January 27, 2010

Soyuz-1 is dead, Long Live Soyuz-2.1V

Military-Industrical Courier reports:

Также завершены летные испытания ракеты-носителя «Рокот». В 2010 году комплекс будет принят в эксплуатацию. РН «Рокот» - это, можно сказать, переходное средство выведения легкого класса. «Рокот» будет использоваться до принятия в эксплуатацию перспективных носителей этого класса - РН «Союз-2.1В» и РН «Ангара-1.2».

Oh, brother. Russians and their nomenclature. At least real Soyuz-2.1 and Soyuz-2.1V are going to have more in common than Tu-22 and Tu-22M3 (e.g. Blok I and payload fairing are shared).

P.S. Just to pee into a westerner's soup, there exists Soyuz-2.1b (and it's a real booster that already made flights). Watch those encoding and case, folks.

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January 22, 2010

Rand Simberg on Launch Escape Systems

Rand's post on Launch Escape is a quality work, and he continues to improve it (fascinating).

One of the important points is the struggle about the absolutization of the human life, rooted in The Right Stuff, Galactic Single Combat General and the associated mythos[1]. Here's a choice comment by a reader "Godzilla":

AFAIK there was only one Soyuz lost to depressurization, but they considered it important enough to add the Sokol suits for every flight ever since at considerable cost. From what I understand the suits are also useless for anything but emergencies, and use considerable space. I see no problem in adding these and the escape tower if it makes people more confident in the system.

The story of the Soyuz 11 flight and the reaction to the tragedy is considerably involved. I think that the same classification of cosmonauts as national assets as in America, and the resulting loss of prestige when one was lost, played a role in overreacting to the fault. Still, who is to say that Sokol is useless? Reading memoirs -- such as that of Prof. B. E. Chertok -- leave no room to doubt that cosmonauts themselves were a) eager to fly when it is not safe, and b) are quite unhappy when they percieve sloppy work on safety. Turning it arounud, they did not want mathematical safety, they wanted everyone in the design office and factory doing their part. In other words, they were irrational just like the public.

BTW, no commenter asked why we put ejection seats in military airplanes, even though they are quite obviously reusable.

[1] In the years since I read The Right Stuff, I learned a few facts about Neil Armstrong in particular, that throw a heavy schadow on his negative portrayal in the book as a kind of "computer man", unable to improvise with the best of Edwards. The book is clearly biased and not reliable. Nonetheless, it serves to depict the cult of the astronaut.

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December 17, 2009

Google and Corn Ranch

I updated my map of Corn Ranch, the Jeff Bezos' personal spaceport from where his spaceships built by Blue Origin make their test flights. Google lags by years at that location, but I was able to piece together pretty good location points using random aerial photographs (including Salt Flat Mystery site) and Terraserver. The latter updates better than Google: its latest is currently from the 2008.

UPDATE: Found a map at Space.com. It shows everything except the newest auxilary pad "E".

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November 23, 2009


According to Spaceflight Now:

Intelsat 14 is fitted with an experimental communications package called IRIS, or Internet Router In Space, as part of a Department of Defense technology demonstration.

"We believe IRIS will extend broadband services on demand in the sky. The Cisco IRIS payload will merge communications received on various frequency bands and transmit them to multiple users," said Steve Boutelle, vice president of Cisco Global Government Solutions Group.

IRIS will test a space-based computer processor that would allow U.S. military and allied forces to communicate with each other using Internet protocol for voice, video and data relay. If the concept is successful, designers say the system would enhance performance and reduce signal degradation from atmospheric conditions.

Took them long enough. The question is, however, how quaint IRIS is going to look 10 years from now. Intelsat 14 is designed for 15 year lifespan.

BTW, I am pretty sure that amateur radio satellites had routers on them before.

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November 13, 2009

NASA and HLV alternatives

An article at Orlando Sentiel breaks the story about NASA studying alternatives to the original Ares V, made necessary by the disaster which is Ares I.

Picture taken from Orlando Sentiel; the rightmost rocket is resized to scale.

Much of the focus is on the new, exciting alternative: a fully liquid rocket with a kerolox 1st stage. It uses Atlas V CCB as strap-ons, in the same manner as Energiya used Zenit. The core is 3 stages, not 2, which should improve performance considerably. No more hassles with the solid propellant, significant reduction of operation costs. Russian engines though... Although RD-180 was supposed to be made in the U.S. and all arrangements were done (documentation translated, necessary alloys identified), the cost was prohibitive and it never happened. Even so it is cleary a winner for everyone except ATK, Doc Horovitz, and Orin Hatch.

I think it's still a mistake to do it though. Although the all-liquid rocket is cheaper to operate in the very long run, at the flight rate it goes, a HLV will never recoup development costs to get there. The idiocy of Ares I and the perfidy of people who pushed "Shuttle-Derived only not really" overshadowed the bigger problem: HLV is never affordable and not necessary. But oh well, if even Buzz wants it, we're married to the concept no matter what.

UPDATE: Rand Simberg comments too, points to blog post by Orlando Sentiel staff, with funny details such as "[all-liquid rocket] also opens up the VAB to other uses because you can have offices in the building again."

By the way, not a peep about RS-84 on the core, but 5x RD-180 instead.

UPDATE: Ed Kyle writes:

RS-84 doesn't, and never will, exist. RD-180 does. RS-84, a prospective reusable engine, was canceled five years ago. The heavy lifter contemplated here would not need a reusable engine.

Actually, RD-180 has a design lifetime that permits reuse, but anyway, sucks for RS-84.

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