Civilian Space Travel

Discussion in 'Science and Technology' started by XCV330, Feb 6, 2019.

  1. Karswell

    Karswell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Stratolaunch looks dead....
    http://parabolicarc.com/2019/05/31/report-stratogoose-cooked/

    he decision to set an exit strategy was made late last year by Allen’s sister, Jody Allen, chair of Vulcan Inc and trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust, one of the four people and the fifth industry source said.

    Jody Allen decided to let the carrier aircraft fly to honor her brother’s wishes and also to prove the vehicle and concept worked, one of the four people said.

    Argh....
     
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  2. XCV330

    XCV330 Premium Member

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    At least it flew once. I guess.

    With Allen gone, and Northrop concentrating on their Omega LV family, it looked like an iffy case. I kind of thought they'd at least try to get a launch done to test the concept but I guess that's that. Maybe the SpaceGoose will find some other use for hauling gigantic oversized stuff. Maybe Virgin will be interested but they're already well on their way with Cosmic Girl.

    People smarter than me see a value in the air launch ideas but I just see it as an overly expensive complicated Stage-0. I felt like Allen had been won over by Rutan and it wasn't exactly breaking the bank for him to go all-in on the idea.
     
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  3. StarCruiser

    StarCruiser Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Houston, we have a problem...
    When Paul died, I suspected that there would be fallout...
     
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  4. XCV330

    XCV330 Premium Member

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    The only people who have successfully done air launch to orbit are OSC, now gobbled up by an old employer of mine, and Pegasus has had only 43 launches in almost 30 years, 38 of them successes. It certainly was never cheap and its launches have become exceedingly rare. With the small launcher business falling to low cost bidders like Firefly and RocketLab, it's hard to imagine a place for air launches, but maybe Virgin has a sound business plan.
     
  5. Karswell

    Karswell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I heard it said at Nasaspaceflight that Branson offered only $1.00 for it:
    https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=27520.msg1956707#msg1956707

    Now, that is a slap in the face. Branson needs this vehicle.

    Here's why.

    Spaceship 2 isn't really a spaceship--and lowering the Karmen line is cheating.

    Secondly, a suborbital spaceplane released from Stratolaunch would have more seats, and be more profitable.
    Besides, there is this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceShipThree

    I was thinking. Isn't Atlas V small enough that an AN-124 can carry it internally? (not fueled, I know)

    Hmm...
     
  6. XCV330

    XCV330 Premium Member

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    Can you just do one link at a time? It always seems like you're throwing everything but the kitchen sink at a post. It's hard to have a discussion on multiple fronts. I'll try to reply to all of these though.

    Branson has oodles of vehicles, especially Cosmic Girl. He doesn't need Allen's Folly. I don't want to get into a nasaspaceflight discussion here. I'm a member there also but prefer to keep that level of specificity to it. Suffice to say in my opinion, if Branson had been serious about it, he would have tried harder to get it. He LIKES being able to claim he tried to buy Concorde (though there would have been no business case for it) and now he can say the same about the BoostGoose. And it can get melted down or find a new home. It was a silly culmination of ideas from a success in XPrize that itself resulted as a win because no one else was seriously playing. It's all about building his brand. It's hard to amortize dev costs, but VG is NEVER going to make its money back with these suborbital hops.

    The Karmen line is as arbitrary as the 50 mile line. They're both space. No one currently buying a ticket on VG is going to not know what they're getting. Personally, yeah if I ever chose to pay for a suborbital hop, ill almost certainly want to go with Blue Origin. But not because of altitude. For starters, i suspect it will cost less, and its an actual ground up launch and capsule return. And to be honest, there's a lot more that can go wrong with a winged platform. Either way, you get your commercial wings if you fly either one.

    At some point in the next few years, someone will have paid to fly both and will be able to give her or his subjective opinion about which was more fun.

    Huntsville is close to the TennTom canal (been on it before) and its very cheap to just barge out stages form ULA Decatur to Cape or even to Vandenberg. They'd have to re-engeneer the core stage attach points and stress points to ship under the plane's belly. Atlas only has a few years left in it, anyway, and I doubt they want to suddenly start over with Vulcan to make that happen.
     
  7. Karswell

    Karswell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Atlas was a good size to work with and around. D-IV was just awkward. The RS-68s deserved to be under shuttle tankage or something wider.
     
  8. XCV330

    XCV330 Premium Member

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    RS68's had some interesting ideas like the channel wall nozzle, and like most things EELV related, they did their job but they never provided a good value.

    Unlike Atlas Delta IV wasn't reliant on Russian hardware. It was a well made domestic design for national security missions. At that level it doesn't have to be bargain basement. I wasn't thrilled that Orbital won a contract for their Antares rocket using old mothballed Russian engines and then were allowed to just switch to newer Russian engines. On the other hand, its not like anyone is lining up to use Antares. When CRS-2 is done, I have to wonder if Northrop Grumman will want to continue with the platform at all, now that they own orbital (I love the Cygnus vehicle, just not crazy about Antares or launching from Wallops). They'll either have Omega by then or will once again step away from the launch business. As a former N-G guy I hope they succeed, somewhere.
     
  9. Karswell

    Karswell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    RS-68 was going channel wall? I thought it was ablative....

    I like Omega. I want Athena III.

    To me, we should have two EELV class rockets.

    One would be Falcon, the other Omega. What I really want are all solid SRB-derived vehicles in ICBM like silos with small payloads at the ready--in case any transient events come by--asteroids, comets, etc.

    Launch on warning science--good fit for the space force.
     
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  10. XCV330

    XCV330 Premium Member

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    yeah, agreed. I just don't see a market for Vulcan in a world with Falcons, Falcon Heavies, New Glenns and New Armstrongs, let alone Starships. ESA knew even before the market shakeup that they couldn't be competitive with the larger booster and they've probably saved their subsidized neck for awhile downgrading with Ariane VI.

    I'd say stick a fork in ULA, they're done, but somehow they keep surviving. Still, I don't see any long future in the Vulcan. For me, the advantage of Omega is that reliable first stage. That thing can loiter on the pad for ages, if need be. Again not cheap but considering it's not going to have a commercial role, it can be kept for those specific chores. And it it shares some commonality with SLS, all the better. Maybe the time for big solids is almost over (apart from a few SLS rockets before they fade off into obscurity) but we'll see.
     
  11. XCV330

    XCV330 Premium Member

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    Boeing CST-100 is supposed to have its test flight now in september, and first crewed flight by the end of the year. It looks like the race for the flag is still on.
     
  12. Karswell

    Karswell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Last edited: Jul 27, 2019
  13. SCE2Aux

    SCE2Aux Commander Red Shirt

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    My impression of ULA and it's Vulcan rocket was of something that had a reasonably solid future doing national security missions. Since you have/are working in the industry, I am interested in the reasons why you think ULA is in trouble. The following is my current points of view, as a layman, regarding ULA's competitors:

    There is a lot of hype surrounding Spacex, but over the last couple of years, my skepticism of them has grown immensely. Falcon Heavy has payload fairing size limitations, and can't vertically integrate payloads. These may not be showstoppers, but there is no sign that Spacex is working on rectifying these problems for Falcon Heavy.
    Starship hardware is being built out in the open, in dirty yards and in maritime climates. The hardware also looks astonishingly almost Victorian in its appearance: It reminds me very much of the rocket from Wallace and Grommit, with its imprecisely joined and rumpled panels and ugly welds. I just don't know what to make of such a weird looking thing, or of Elon Musk's rather incredible claims that the prototypes will be doing ambitious testflights within months. I also wonder about their financial state, but since Spacex is a black box, there's no telling what condition thry are in. The layoffs coupled with funding rounds fon't sound great though.

    Blue Origin is an interesting company, and I don't doubt the seriousness of their intentions to build New Glenn. Indeed, they have a lot of experienced engineers in their ranks. To date, however, they have not demonstrated the ability to fly very heavy lift rockets. There will be problems that only can be encountered once they actually start trying to build and fly these things regularly. Why would national security launches be entrusted with such an untested company? I realize that ULA will also be flying BE-4's, which makes things a little less clearcut, but ULA will at least have a legacy of experience for the overall process of developing and operating launchers.

    I also like Omega as a national security launcher, for all the reasons you and others have described. It will be built by a company with a long history in rocketry - something that typically conservative customers like the armed forces and intelligence services will presumably value.

    ULA also has a proven record for national security payloads, and I don't see why the armed forces, intelligence services, NASA, and even the odd commercial customer would snub Vulcan for missions involving payloads that absolutely have to be launched reliably, with cost being a secondary factor. Like Omega, Vulcan will have hardware commonality with other launchers: Vulcan will be using a Centaur used previously on Atlas. It will also be using solids that will have been previously proven on the final batch of Atlas Vs. Vulcan is being built by a proven company, it will have a lot of capability, and there will be significant hardware commonality with already flying launchers. Why wouldn't the US government go for it for any number of missions, civilian or military?

    So, if two vehicle's get downselected (which would make sense for redundancy's sake) why not go with Omega and Vulcan, and let the others duke it out in the commercial arena until they are a safer, more capable bet?

    Whew, that was a bit more rambling than I intended, but I would appreciate your, or anyone elses, thoughts in this point of view, as the subject is of some interest to me.
     
  14. XCV330

    XCV330 Premium Member

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    I agree with you about a lot but not everything. And I don't have any connection with any of those companies at the moment. But anyway ULA just doesn't have any more congressional schmoozing power than the other big players now. And Amazon, whether they've launched anything bigger than New Shep, is a player now. The sheer amount of people they are hiring makes them politically important in Florida. if I acted like i knew what went into contract negotiations and decisions I'd be a liar, but look at what vulcan is:
    ULA doesn't design anything. They were a company put together to launch rockets designed by Boeing and LockMart. Those companies were supposed to sell seperately so the EELV program would be competitive. Congress let them get away with being noncompetitive. ULA was assembling Atlas V in all the right places (and Delta IV, not that many have been made. I think the last Delta IV Medium is going to launch before long) so no one important put up any fuss. ULA had congress by the gonads and they knew it. SpaceX was laughed off by all the right people, who were basing their assumptions on the trouble that the early company had had with supply chain issues when they were still trying to launch a single Falcon 1 in Kwaj and not the system Musk was putting together right in front of their eyes. They look foolish in retrospect but they did then too to anyone that could see. And I feel the same way about Blue Origin right now.

    As far as SpaceX goes.. think of Falcon Heavy as a medium term solution. It won't have much of a viable reason to fly after Starship starts to punch holes in the atmosphere, so the booster diameter/fairing issue is moot. And for anyone wanting to do the usual "it's just a paper rocket": no, metal is bending engines are firing and hover tests are a week or so away. SpaceX has had its delays but absolutely nothing akin to NASA delays or those from the usual suspect vendors for that matter. Blue Origin covers its bets by simply not making statements at all, if it can avoid it, but again.. when they say they will do something, it's as good as done. SpaceX has so far met most of its goals or is close to meeting them. The only thing it ever backed out on was Falcon V, and only because Falcon 9 hit the role better.

    I think ULA is doomed because all it can hope for is DoD contracts, and those can be handled just as well or better by B-O. SpaceX and Northrop-Grumman/OSC. There are, no doubt, certain retired officers who have found new positions at ULA remarkably quickly, and that's none of MY business, but i don't know that that kind of old school practice works as well now. It's just too competetive and the industry needs more launches than ever, something ULA will never be able to provide.
     
  15. XCV330

    XCV330 Premium Member

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    one small hop for Starhopper. It did not go far but it did lift off and hover. It will go further soon.
     
  16. Karswell

    Karswell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Dragon and Falcon--though they come from a New Space company--are really Old Space type vehicles.
    Maybe its subjective, but when I look at Falcon flights, I just get the same feeling as when I look at old Titan launches, say.

    I guess familiarity does breed contempt. Take the closest thing Old Space ever got to a cheap LV: I actually got **mad** at seeing Delta II flying so often, years ago when it became something of a crutch--JPL's baby.

    Star Hopper--in my opinion--is the first true New Space vehicle--because it--at last--brings rocketry out of the clean room.

    A very Soviet thing to do, ironically--since they looked at MiGs like tractors.

    Star Hopper brings to mind the SALVAGE ONE-era fantasies I had as a child--of what a rocket I wanted to build behind my old clubhouse/fort would look like....home-made, and all.

    And damn it--it actually works.

    I'm a pessimist. Nothing has gone right in my life. In my minds eye--I could just see Star Hopper failing--Just one more punch in the gut of a space fan.

    Unlike many old space fans, I want Space X to succeed, so very badly.

    I support SLS because there is this imp that keeps telling me:

    "It won't work....grow up...space will never be commonplace. The universe is cruel--it doesn't allow dreams."

    Instead, we have a success--a bit of childlike wonder remains still.

    Spielberg--here is your next project.
     
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  17. XCV330

    XCV330 Premium Member

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    Starhopper 's 2nd flight, 200 meter hover, expected no earlier than August 12.
    Musk also mentioned the 3 engine upgrade (initial starhopper is 1 raptor engine) will be able to go suborbital. Presumably we'll see the nosecone version in flight by suborbital flights.
     
  18. Karswell

    Karswell Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Even if Starship has problems with re-entry on returns--it can still have a use. Starship comes from water tower construction.

    So why not land in the middle of a crater?

    Have the crater lined with mirrors to focus sunlight atop the tankage now filled with lunar water
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power_tower
     
  19. XCV330

    XCV330 Premium Member

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    i am not a huge fan of lunar-solar just because of the long nights, and in the areas where lunar ice may exist, its even worse.
    with Kilopower you can use nuclear to keep your settlement running through night. it might have to be a solar/fission set up until fusion power finally becomes a reality. then with all that He3 up there, the next stage is a no brainer.



    in other civilian spaceflight news:
    Blue Origins is still pushing for first crewed flight by the end of the years, but they want to do at least two more test flights by then, so maybe not likely.

    likewise CST100 is still trying to have their first crewed qualification flight by the end of the year, as is Crewed Dragon.

    No word on the next Virgin Galactic flight, but the next SpaceShipTwo is being built, and supposedly VSS Unity is being transferred from Mojave to Spaceport America, in New Mexico where tourism operations will take place. Building the third SpaceShipTwo is a pretty good sign they're confident with the design now and readying for paying operations.
     
  20. Karswell

    Karswell Vice Admiral Admiral

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