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Alternative Launcher For Returning To the Moon 116

Posted by kdawson
from the up-up-and-away dept.
DIRECT Launcher writes, "A grass-roots effort, based around a group of engineers, managers, and others involved in the US space program, is proposing an alternative launch vehicle for NASA to adopt for the new Lunar Exploration program. The new vehicle offers serious performance and cost savings totaling $35 billion over the next twenty years. The proposal was presented to NASA last week. The concept would make possible future Hubble Space Telescope servicing missions after Shuttle has retired, allow for all the remaining ISS elements to be launched after all, free up cash to fund the JIMO mission again, and also allow NASA to return to the moon three years early."
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Alternative Launcher For Returning To the Moon

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  • I can understand why we'd want to go to Mars, but why try to scrounge up existing resources to get to the Moon? Sure, saving $35 Billion sounds great, but that's $35 Billion out of an estimated $108 Billion [cbsnews.com], which really means $200 Billion. The first time we went, we gained an unprecedented amount of technical knowledge, global press, and renewed patriotism from our people. The second time, we're planning on reusing parts to duplicate what's already been done. Who's going to care? And who's going to be
    • by creimer (824291)
      Because the Chinese are going to the moon. A lot of U.S. politicians would argue why go to Mars when the moon was "lost" to the communists?
      • Because the Chinese are going to the moon.

        The Chinese claim they want to go to the moon. So did the Russians, who never managed to put humans there, despite a very advanced space program. The Chinese could do it, but talk is cheap, and the moon is expensive.

        In any case, the world is different. I highly doubt anyone would care if the Chinese went to the moon and we weren't actively going. The US has already been there, done that; no one doubts we could do it again if we had an important reason.

      • by khallow (566160)

        Because the Chinese are going to the moon. A lot of U.S. politicians would argue why go to Mars when the moon was "lost" to the communists?

        At their current launch rate of half a dozen rockets per year, they'll get there eventually. But they aren't a serious contender.
    • by TGTilde (874930)
      There is a decent argument of using it as a dry space-dock where we could build and launch deeper space exploration vehicles for less fuel costs. Of course we still have to lift the materials off the earth to get them to the moon assuming that we don't quickly come up with a space mining program. Oh man moon trips are sounding smarter and smarter by the minute =\
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Megane (129182)

        There is a decent argument of using it as a dry space-dock where we could build and launch deeper space exploration vehicles for less fuel costs.

        That would be great... if the ISS were on a more equitorial orbit. As it is, it's on a rather inclined orbit, chosen to make it easier for Russian launches.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by AKAImBatman (238306) *

          That would be great... if the ISS were on a more equitorial orbit.

          Who mentioned the ISS? They were talking about construction yards on the Moon.

          As for the ISS, it's too bad that it's a political boondoggle. It's essentially worthless right now, but at least allows us to fly the flag. (Hey look! We got a Space Station!) Once the Ares V comes online, the ISS will be worthless, useless, and easily replaceable. Being able to launch 130 metric tonnes to LEO means that we could launch a complete ISS replacement i

        • by khallow (566160)
          Actually, the ISS is in a great orbit for tourists and Earth-oriented science. The high inclination orbit means you'll see a lot of the Earth in passing. Being serviceable by Russian rockets is great too. Not much else it's good for in that orbit.
    • by RuBLed (995686)
      or they could put advertisements on the shuttle like this..

      (see the first result)

      Space Shuttle Advertisements [google.com]

      (sorry, it's just in the google cache.. source site seems to be down already)
    • by JonLatane (750195)
      27? Wow, you must have her on a tight leash.
    • The real point of this project is to ditch the shuttle while keeping everybody who works on it for NASA employeed. (Guess which is the real albatross.) They could save a lot more money by firing a lot of people.
      • That's brilliant! If everyone would just fire all their employees, the cost of running a business would drop to almost $0. Nothing but profit from then on! Managers should really get on this.
        • NASA is a bloated bureaucracy like numerous other government agencies. I don't understand why you're surprised by the fact.
          • I just like that 1 ten-billionth of the government's wasted money goes toward building interesting toys and keeping people with doctorates from having to send in better resumes than mine for toilet cleanliness technician jobs.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by east coast (590680)
      The moon is a better test bed; less gravity, faster travel time from earth to target, easier to get there if there would happen to be a systems failure and we needed to rescue... We need to learn a bit more about remote lift offs and terrestrial bases on foreign bodies. The moon is a fine location. Besides, knowing as much as we do about it compared to Mars makes even more reason to go there for testing.

      we also have a number of interests on the moon including mining and a space based observatory that will
      • by khallow (566160)
        As I mentioned in another reply, the Moon is a great place to colonize, but it's not that helpful to Mars exploration. A lot of the stuff you mention can be tested on an even cheaper location, Earth. Ultimately, it'll probably be cheaper to test on Mars rather than on the disimilar environment of the Moon.
      • by inviolet (797804)

        The moon is a better test bed; less gravity, faster travel time from earth to target, easier to get there if there would happen to be a systems failure and we needed to rescue... We need to learn a bit more about remote lift offs and terrestrial bases on foreign bodies. The moon is a fine location.

        The moon has a severe problem with abrasive microdust. The problem may be completely insurmountable. I think it's called lunar regolith. Read up on it before you suggest that the moon is a good place to do any

        • I think it's called lunar regolith. Read up on it before you...

          That's fairly bold; you don't even know what regolith is and you're suggesting I should read up on it? LOL! In any case, if you really think this is less of a problem on Mars where they have known windstorms that make hurricans seem like a summer breeze than I'm sorry but you're out of your mind.
          • by inviolet (797804)

            That's fairly bold; you don't even know what regolith is and you're suggesting I should read up on it? LOL! In any case, if you really think this is less of a problem on Mars where they have known windstorms that make hurricans seem like a summer breeze than I'm sorry but you're out of your mind.

            Full information about the hazard of lunar dust is here [wired.com].

            The windstorms on Mars are what make its dust less of a problem. Lunar dust is abrasive because there isn't any weather to wear down the particles' sharp ed

            • Yeah, I'm glad that Wired has insight into issues that NASA hasn't considered. Thanks for the info.
              • by inviolet (797804)

                Yeah, I'm glad that Wired has insight into issues that NASA hasn't considered. Thanks for the info.

                I did a quick search on nasa.gov for 'lunar dust' and got a whole page of hits. As you would've too, if you'd cared to investigate before posting yet another hollow, shoot-from-the-hip reply.

                It turns out that NASA has thought [nasa.gov] quite [nasa.gov] a lot [nasa.gov] about the problem.

                From the latter:

                Although simple dust mitigation measures were sufficient to mitigate some of the problems (i.e., loss of traction), it was found that t

                • No, it wasn't "another hollow shoot-from-the-hip reply". It was a responce to the likes of Wired magazine and Slashdotters who think that they can poke holes in the best laid plans of seasoned engineers who actually work in the field. If you take the pains of translating your own selected quote: "The severity of the dust problems were consistently underestimated by ground tests, indicating a need to develop better simulation facitilities and procedures." and take the time to understand an engineering mental
                  • by inviolet (797804)

                    Recall that this thread started when you praised the moon as "a fine location" for experiments in space travel. I pointed out that you were not aware of the dust problem, which is severe and possibly unsolvable. There followed your raspberries and my production of references.

                    I don't dispute your final "We need to do more testing with an appropriate test bed". Nobody would dispute that straw-man of yours. I only disputed your initial, casual assessment that the moon is an obviously better first destinat

                    • Recall that this thread started when you praised the moon as "a fine location" for experiments in space travel.

                      And I still stand by that. I gave reasons you decided to ignore.

                      I don't dispute your final "We need to do more testing with an appropriate test bed". Nobody would dispute that straw-man of yours.

                      Um, bullshit. Either that or you don't fully grasp the entire "straw-man" statement. A common slashdotters mistake as it's a slashdot buzzword. If you agree with me on that point and still call it a s
    • by BritImp (795629)
      The moon is just a testbed for Mars. It's three days away, not 9 months away. Lets make sure we can survive that long locally before just setting off... And don't forget that the Shuttle will be retired in about three years. If NASA doesn't make *something* very soon, the US drops out of the list of nations capable of exploiting space, at just the time when China and India are building their programs up, and churning out many more engineers and scientists from their universities. A robust US space p
      • by khallow (566160)
        Mars would be a cheaper testbed. I side with Robert Zubrin on this issue. Building a lunar base to help you on Mars is a non sequitur. The two environments are nothing alike. I happen to think that building a lunar base would be a great idea, but we shouldn't pretend it'll help people on Mars significantly.
    • by yoprst (944706)
      You do understand why we want to go to Mars? Good for you. I don't. Robots are so much better for any kind of space mission (except for space lifeboats, but we're centuries away from that), that sending humans anywhere seems downright silly.
      • All of a sudden we need a reason to go land a crew of humans on the planet Mars? The way I see it, going and landing on Mars is a matter of getting all the best engineers together and doing something just as an exercise in doing something. We'll invent some sort of research mission on the way, because by god, that's how they did the Apollo program!
        • by yoprst (944706)
          Appolo was done in the days when robots were nearly usless. They aren't now. And even then it was like 90% show-off, 10% science (not that other human flights starting from very first one were any different). Best engineers can spend those billions much better by building and launching unmanned space probes and space telescopes.
          • I think showing off is an important purpose of space exploration. I'm not saying not to use robots. But there's too much perceived need to justify things like this before they happen. It is just as worthy to accomplish great tasks because they are great, and because by accomplishing them we leave monuments to our own ability to accomplish. We still remember the Egyptians because they built gigantic pyramids to bury their dead kings. We marvel and we wonder at how they accomplished that feat. Landing men on
            • by yoprst (944706)
              There aren't any Egyptians anymore. There are Arabs living in Egypt. And they haven't built any pyramids. Not exactly a coincidence, if you ask me.
      • by Salvance (1014001) *
        Oh, I DEFINITELY agree that robots are better ... and think we should be sending much bigger and better robots to Mars instead of people. But if we feel we must send people, the moon seems like a pretty silly place to put them.
      • You do understand why we want to go to Mars? Good for you. I don't.

        People will go to Mars. We can haggle all day over the "when exactly" -- maybe it'll be another 500 years. But I think it isn't too far fetched that it is going to happen, right?

        When people go, they will bring their culture with them. Their values. Their social taboos and cognitive environments.

        What would it be worth to you that space is colonized with values and cultural concepts near and dear to yourself? That the meme of free spee

    • by TheLink (130905)
      I agree - why waste time doing about the same things over and over again.

      Since Bush likes going to the moon so much, save even more money- Send G W Bush to the moon ;).

      While you are at it, set up a way for US citizens to vote politicians off the planet - with options - return / 1 way.

      Think of it as the next Survivor series. I bet the voter turn out will be great, and even one of those reality TV shows can probably come up with a voting system that works better than Diebold's.
    • Maybe THIS time we'll actually go!
    • For women's shoes the standard unit of measure is the Imelda [wikipedia.org]. In your wife's case that would be a bit over 2%. [lycos.co.uk]

      (My wife and her friends refer to anyone with more than about .025 imelda as a "shoe whore", a term they don't seem to consider in any way uncomplimentary.)

      Yeah this post seems off-topic, but what the hell, it's a math post, and math is pretty important to celestial navigation!

      • by Phat_Tony (661117)
        That remind me of the standard unit of beauty, the helen. One millihelen is enough beauty to launch one ship.
  • by Kell Bengal (711123) on Sunday October 29, 2006 @10:14PM (#16638112)
    I notice there's a lot of talk for reusing orbiter (like DIRECT) and Apollo technology. Now, I'm all for reuse of facilities and technology, but I can't help but think that we're undercutting ourselves by not developing new technology and capability that will last into the future. It's as if no one ever wanted to develop further than 1920's cars, since they did the job 'well enough'. Is this going to cost us when, in three decades, the new vehicles are hitting end-of-service and suddenly we're stuck with infrastructure that is half a century out of date?
    • by creimer (824291)
      There's a political boondoggle to maintain by still using the old technology in whatever shape and form. A politician can't go back home to explain that new technology is being developed as jobs are lost as the old technology is shut down. If the government was building cars, the 1920's models would still be good enough.
      • If the government was building cars, the 1920's models would still be good enough.

        Why am I suddenly reminded of Cuba?

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I agree. If we ever want to go to Mars or make a sizable Moon base we will need a heavy lift rocket. This rocket that covers everything will carry less weight than a Saturn V. That is unsatisfactory. While I think the Ares I is fairly foolish (we could modify a Delta IV or even an Arianne V cheaper), the Ares V is a piece of must-have technology. The Ares V will be able to toss 130 tons (and perhaps as much as 170 tons) into LEO. And it won't have to be man-rated thereby reducing its cost. It seems t
      • Mod parent up. (What's with the AC post?)

        Limiting ourselves to this design means severely limiting our throw power, limiting our hardware options, and limiting the mindset of those in the Space Program. Think about that last one for a moment. The mindset for the last 20 years has been "it *must* be the Space Shuttle". If you build this craft, then you'll get the mindset, "It *must* be the DIRECT."

        As we introduce new and varied space vehicle, we can help break that mindset and push launch technology forward.
    • by BritImp (795629)
      The limit is that the US can't afford to make a 'clean sheet' booster anyway. So re-use is all there is. The true limit is whether the second vehicle gets cancelled and strands us all in Low Earth Orbit for the next 30 years, while China plods on towards the moon anyway.
    • undercutting ourselves by not developing new technology and capability that will last into the future

      What do you mean "last into the future"? Isn't that exactly what the current technology they are aiming to reuse now is doing? If we do create something new now that will "last into the future" will there be someone (perhaps a descendant of yours!) suggesting that we should make something new anyway so we aren't "undercutting ourselves by not developing new technology and capability that will last into the

    • by khallow (566160)
      Let's be realistic. NASA has developed a lot of new technology. It usually gets ignored since no one can use it. The big problem here is that there's this huge gap between the technology we can explore and the technology we can use. My hope is that NASA's next launch vehicles are obseleted before they first launch by commercial technology. For example, the Atlas V is a little shy of Ares I capability (within a factor of two IIRC). There's no obvious reason that Lockheed Martin couldn't build a next generati
  • I must say that this is wonderful. This is exactly what engineers are supposed to do: Take what you have and use it in the most efficient ways possible. I'm glad some people stepped up to such a huge challenge and, at least from their propaganda, have created a viable system that could really help one of this country's, IMHO, failing organizations. Kudos to that group. But we will see how the GOP really lets that extra 35 billion get spent, new launch systems for STAR WARS enabled satellites?
    • I must say that this is wonderful.

      No, this is a very bad idea. Hasn't the Space Shuttle proven anything? If you build a space vehicle that's the jack of all trades, you end up with a vehicle that's the master of none.

      A lot of people would point to the Saturn V as a successful implementation of the DIRECT concept. Indeed, it would appear to have been an exceptional program, capable of carrying both humans and cargo depending on the configuration. What those same people don't realize, however, is that operati

      • First off, keep in mind, that almost certainly any system not fully developed by 2010 will be killed. Why? Because we will have a new admin, and because we will have new launch capabilities via private enterprise. In addition, for going to both the moon and mars, we will end up using BA-330 (or bigger). We will find it far cheaper. All in all, the CEV will not be the norm for traveling out of orbit.

        DIRECT and the Ares system both offer a heavy launcher. Ares V is able to handle more, while the Ares I hand
        • OTH, DIRECT can do 2/3 of the weight for a fraction of the cost of development as well as cheaper to launch.

          It does this on paper, not with figures that can be easily backed up. The Space Shuttle was supposed to save massive amounts of cash on launches as well. Notice how well that prediction worked out.

          DIRECT will not be the jack of all trade.

          That is what it is being sold as. If you sell this to Congress and renege, they'll come back and demand to know why it isn't being used as the jack of all trades. It'

          • You could build a very large inflatible space station with the cargo capacity of either of these rockets. Where you actually need the capacity is for vehicles that depart low earth orbit. Heavy things like Lunar Landers, Mars Orbiters, Mars Landers, Asteroid Mining Missions, Moon Base Supplies, etc.

            Who said the BA-330 is just a space station? They are looking to use it for transportation to other places. In particular, if this can survive space, then it should be able to survive the moon. Simply chop the b

    • by AEton (654737)
      Careful there.

      People on the moon might throw rocks at you.
      • People on the moon might throw rocks at you.

        It'd be an interesting call as to who'd win that war of attrition.

        On the one hand, the moon has much less gravity so it takes less energy for the Mooninites to hurl a rock at the Earthlings.

        The Earthlings may require more energy to hurl their earth-rocks at the moon but there are so many more earth-rocks than moon-rocks that the Earthlings are much less likely to run out of ammunition.
    • Why should we blow up the Moon? It's not like it's obstructing our view of the planet Venus or anything.
  • From TFA(summary):

    The new vehicle offers serious performance and cost savings totaling $35 billion over the next twenty years.

    It offer the potential for savings - as nobody knows how much it will save until its built and flying. (And aerospace cost estimates are notoriously unreliable - we simply don't do enough of them to build an experience base.

    From the website:

    This architecture completely removes the costs & risks associated with developing and operating a second launcher

    • Thats just an optional upper stage with aero shroud on top in the picture on the right. The Core vehicle and SRB's are actually identical on both of those launchers. The Proposal on the site explains it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by DerekLyons (302214)

        Thats just an optional upper stage with aero shroud on top in the picture on the right.

        As this system is intended to replace both Ares vehicles - the cargo variant is not optional, it's a requirement. (Their own proposal and examples show the cargo variant as part of the mission architecture.)

        The Core vehicle and SRB's are actually identical on both of those launchers.

        They won't end up identical - I'd bet large, large, sums of money on it. The requirements of the two vehicles demand they

    • In addition to your comments, a quick browsing of the site suggests that this plan really only looks at the cost of going to the moon...not the cost of maintaining reliable low earth orbit access. That's the whole point of developing two distinct vehicles. One does heavy lifting for big projects like this (and furthermore could offer a platform for Mars exploration), the other gets people up and and down. This "grassroots" movement mixes the roles. It ends up that every time you go to the ISS you're paying
      • It ends up that every time you go to the ISS you're paying to launch a vehicle with a 75 tonne capacity instead of one with a 20 tonne LEO capacity.

        Concentrating on a single vehicle can reduce costs by invoking economies of scale. I.E. by producing more of that vehicle, but it's not clear that enough (of this design) will be flown/produced to move from serial to mass production. (It's the latter where savings can really be made.) Another thing to consider is that the costs of a rocket scale only weakly

  • by skogs (628589) on Sunday October 29, 2006 @11:47PM (#16638547) Journal
    Everybody so far commenting is simply complaining about wasting money, cutting jobs, reusing old stuff, rebuilding new stuff....you are missing the most incredible part of their proposal:

    70 metric tons to orbit base
    98 metric tons to orbit cargo vehicle

    This compares to the current shuttle lift capacity of 16+ metric ton.

    Son, packaged correctly, you could launch the entire remaining ISS sections into space at one time.

    This is simply reusing some very basic lift parts and redesigning some new engines for the base of the fuel tank. Probably some reinforcement to the tank too for the added weight on top. Some new control and piping to the top for the rest of the vehicle....

    I frankly don't know how they plan to get that much more thrust and lift capability out of those SRBs and new engines...but if they think they can do it, I'd be inclined to support them whole heartedly.

    Even if they only made half their expected lift capacity, it would still a significant improvement.

    How about launching 4 or 5 GPS satellites and a spy satellite all on one mission?

    How about building a moon base?

    How about putting a decent sized nuclear reactor in space to provide unlimited power instead of relying on solar panels?

    Tonnage gets you everything.

       
    • I think added capacity is the simplest part to explain...

      Removing the shuttle saves 68 tons for the thing empty, 108 tons loaded.

      Add in the 25 tons that's the maximum payload the shuttle can lift, and it gets real easy to believe they can lift almost a 100 tons by redesigning the shuttle lift platform a bit to remove the need for the shuttle. You loose some tons because one of the things they have to do is move the shuttle's engines to the central tank.

      There's no practical reason why we couldn't make a spa
    • by khallow (566160)

      I frankly don't know how they plan to get that much more thrust and lift capability out of those SRBs and new engines...but if they think they can do it, I'd be inclined to support them whole heartedly.

      Glancing around, it appears that 70 tons to orbit is a slight but nice improvement on the Shuttle C [nasaspaceflight.com]. 98 tons is a big improvement.

      How about putting a decent sized nuclear reactor in space to provide unlimited power instead of relying on solar panels?

      What's wrong with relying on solar panels to provi

    • This compares to the current shuttle lift capacity of 16+ metric ton.

      The shuttle has an absolute lift power of ~120 metric tonnes. The fact that the majority of the lift power is used in lifting the Space Shuttle itself brings the maximum cargo lift weight down to ~25 metric tonnes.

      Son, packaged correctly, you could launch the entire remaining ISS sections into space at one time.

      Why wouldn't the 130 metric tonne to LEO Ares V do the same? With the DIRECT, you could finish the Space Station. (A useless piece of junk in the wrong orbit.) With the Ares V, you could launch a new one in only two flights.

      I frankly don't know how they plan to get that much more thrust and lift capability out of those SRBs and new engines...but if they think they can do it, I'd be inclined to support them whole heartedly.

      All these technologies are "shuttle derived". Which means that the Super Booster capabilities of the Shuttle are separated from the Space Shuttle vehicle, and placed into a more traditional stack. Through the use of more engines and staging, NASA plans to launch more absolute weight with the Ares V than the Shuttle can launch today. The DIRECT would actually scale back the absolute weight.

      The Ares has an upgrade path (read: even more tonnage per launch) through the development of better engines. The DIRECT design anticipates those engines, and demands that they be manrated before they are ready. Which should raise a lot of red flags.

      Basically, the DIRECT design stands out as a beautiful paper concept. It all seems to come together into the perfect solution, but ignores the realities of the situation. More likely than not, we'd never get a craft off the ground if we went with the DIRECT design. Warts or not, the CEV is the pragmatic solution. We need to follow the program through to conclusion, and not get distracted by the paper ideas that jump out at us.
      • by khallow (566160)

        All these technologies are "shuttle derived". Which means that the Super Booster capabilities of the Shuttle are separated from the Space Shuttle vehicle, and placed into a more traditional stack. Through the use of more engines and staging, NASA plans to launch more absolute weight with the Ares V than the Shuttle can launch today. The DIRECT would actually scale back the absolute weight.

        NASA doesn't need the extra weight that the Ares V can throw. And since their plans call for four launches per year

        • NASA doesn't need the extra weight that the Ares V can throw.

          And you know that... how? In fact, NASA will need all the weight it can throw going forward. Sure, a simple moon mission might not require it, but what about a Mars mission? There will need to be significantly more fuel and hardware boosted for that operation. And what about a lunar transfer point in LEO? That was one of the original intentions of the ISS. The DIRECT would require at least three flights to lift the weight of the current ISS design

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            The Ares I also proposes a new, not yet man-rated engine: The 5 segment SRB. Maybe that could get man-rated faster than the RS-68. As for the RS-68 not being restartable, neither is the SSME. The proposed applications of either engine (in either proposal) does not require a restartable engine.

            Seems to me that the Direct proposal could initially use SSMEs, then upgrade to the RS-68s, later.

            Also, FWIW, the military commissioned the Titan IV as a backup to the shuttle - one of the available payload shrou

      • Why wouldn't the 130 metric tonne to LEO Ares V do the same? With the DIRECT, you could finish the Space Station.

        Ares V could do it. But the problem is that it is not slated to be operational UNTIL after 2016 i.e. about the time that the ISS is expected to decommision. Instead, DIRECT would be ready in either 2010 or 2011. Big difference.

        As to the upgrade path, I would not worry about it. After 2012, I am betting that the next big upgrade will come out of Scaled Composite (not just in tonnage, but in ver

        • Instead, DIRECT would be ready in either 2010 or 2011. Big difference.

          You shouldn't put so much stock in what it says on paper. If the DIRECT program goes forward, it will NOT be flying by 2010. Nor 2011. In fact, we'll be lucky if it's flying by 2016. After all, it's based on the same technology as the Ares-V. Simply scaling it back does little to improve the schedule of the program. It may seem like it on paper, but the reality of this has never held true.
    • That part of the proposal will probably get the focus from the naysayers so they can continue on the with the current methods and ideas they have.

      While reuse is nice; it rarely is as easy as pdf's make it out to be. As for the weight, that is a great part of the proposal. Too bad the costs associated put it outside of a non-government group. Would be nice to see a private company built around the concept of putting stuff into space on a large scale.

    • 70 metric tons to orbit base
      98 metric tons to orbit cargo vehicle


      Ooooooh, color me completely unimpressed.

      There've been some Project Orion documents declassified and published recently. Take a look [flickr.com].

      Specifically, look at these numbers [flickr.com].

      For the uninitiated, Orion's a nuclear pulse rocket. You have a big baseplate. You have your payload on top of the plate. You set atomic bombs off under the plate. Plate moves.

      Their advanced interplanetary design had a deliverable payload the moon of 5700 tons; that's abou
  • by LWATCDR (28044)
    But that isn't man rated.
    How much would making it man rated add to the cost of development?
    That is one of the reasons they are going with the J-2x.
    I would love to see a real heavy lift launch vehicle built.
    Something like a new and improved Saturn V. All the current ideas remind me of the Saturn 1. They are put together out of spare parts of other rockets.
    • by BritImp (795629)
      The RS-68 only needs an extra layer of redundancy in systems such as the actuators. And an independant NASA qualification program. The engine already has a max burn time somewhere around 8000seconds, so it's well proven already. And NASA's already planning on using RS-68 for the *man-rated* Ares-V "big brother" - assuming it is ever built.
      • And NASA's already planning on using RS-68 for the *man-rated* Ares-V "big brother" - assuming it is ever built.

        The Ares-V *is* the big brother. To the best of my knowledge, it will not be man-rated. It is intended as a purely cargo-carrying craft used to deliver raw materials, space platforms, and interplanetary vehicles into orbit. The man-rated vehicle will be the Ares-I, which will use the classic J-2 engines for reliability, weight, and and restart capabilities. It will carry the crew to the various de

        • by BritImp (795629)
          Ares-V *is* to be fully man rated.

          Single-flight Lunar missions in the same style as Apollo are planned - mainly to be used for Crew Rotation to the planned Lunar science base.

          Also potentially for some near-Earth asteroid visits if there's any money available (Griffin spoke at GRC recently and said the US won't have any spare money and needed International investment to really use the new program).

          But there's nothing Ares-V can do which DIRECT couldn't also do, without the huge development cost.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by AKAImBatman (238306) *

            Single-flight Lunar missions in the same style as Apollo are planned - mainly to be used for Crew Rotation to the planned Lunar science base.

            Got a link? The last plan that NASA announced was to launch the Lunar Lander + Moon Booster as cargo, then have the Orion dock with the lunar module. This was what was shown in NASA's presentation video [youtube.com]. This plan did NOT call for the Ares-V to be man-rated.

            If that's changed, then you should probably update the Wikipedia Info [wikipedia.org] on Project Constellation. Remember to cite

    • by khallow (566160)
      Man-rating seems to be one of those things that people aren't sure really exists. Once your rocket engine can achieve a comfortable acceleration profile and failure rate (ie, less than 1 in 100 or so catastrophic failures that risk the crew), you've achieved whatever man-rating would achieve. As I understand it, the RS-68 can achieve that. If man-rating an existing, reliable rocket engine is prohibitively expensive, then it indicates a problem in the rating process not in the rocket. In other words, if the
      • by BritImp (795629)
        NASA need to test the system under failure conditions to generate shutdown procedures which 'safe' an engine in failure modes. For satellite launches, it doesn't matter much *how* it fails, just *that* it fails.

        For manned flights you need to know exactly how the engine reacts when it does give up, because you want a crew to survive any failures. So destructive testing is a big part of man-rating.

        There's also an issue with responsibility. If a Delta-IV satellite launcher engine were to go bang, Pra
        • by 0123456 (636235)
          The 'man-rated' Saturn V was still coming close to a destructive breakup due to engine problems as late as Apollo 13. 'Man-rating' basically seems to be the NASA equivalent of 'NIH'... if they designed it it's 'man-rated', if someone else designed it, it's not.
    • I'm worried about the SRBs. Once upon a time, a rocket you couldn't shut off in an emergency was considered bad for manned flight. "The DIRECT approach calls for a single launch vehicle, based on the very reliable and already man-rated 4-segment Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB) used on the Space Shuttle today", they say, describing a system with one total loss of vehicle and crew on its record and at least one near miss.
      • by BritImp (795629)
        The SRBs which fly today on Shuttle are NOT the same ones as flew before Challenger.

        They have a 100% perfect flight record since that redesign - 182 back-to-back manned flights.
      • by LWATCDR (28044)
        I am not to worried about the SRB except they are not the best solution for a booster. RP-1/LOX would be a better solution. Boeing was working on an improved F1 fly back booster for the shuttle. NASA built and tested an improve F1 and more than one improved J-2 one of which is they are using on the new launch vehicle.
        I think that we need to build a Saturn VI.
  • Rather than undo the lesson of decades of failure of government chosen launch technologies, NASA should buy moon rocks, measurements, and the like from the private sector.

    This would be the market support for the development of a lunar mission capability without risk to the taxpayer.

    • Just go to downtown New York, and you can buy your genuine moonrocks from the same guy that sells those genuine Rolex watches.
      • by Baldrson (78598) *
        How much money do you think it would cost to come up with a fool-proof means of verifying the origin of said rocks?

        How much money do you think NASA is going to spend "returning to the Moon"?

        These are rational questions posed to an irrational person of course -- so consider them rheotorical.

    • private sector seldom does basic research - too costly, no immediate profit.
  • Imagine how much you would get with a 1 Billion dollar X Prize, we would be on Mars probably. NASAs time has passed, time to can everyone and move on.
  • Why not take existing proven rocket engines (such as those used on the Titan booster, the Saturn rocket, the shuttle, the Delta rocket, whatever the russians use to launch soyuz or whatever it is) and strap it to the rear end of a big fuel tank with the payload (ISS module or whatever else) strapped to the nose or something.
    No new technologies or anything, just use what we have now and know works.
    If takeoff weight is an issue, do what the russians did with Sputnik or what was done with the Saturn 5 and just
    • Another idea that has come up is to simply take the shuttle SRBs and external tank as they are now (or replace the shuttle SRBs with liquid rockets) and strap a set of rocket engines on to the rear end of the external tank (to substitute for the shuttle main engines) and strap a payload in (on top of it or on the back in place of the orbiter).

      This is the Big Dumb Booster which Stephen Baxter has popularised in several of his books. As you imply there are lots of components available and lots of ways of put

  • ...to lift over 70mT...

    Wouldn't a unit of mass be more suitable here?

  • I'm all for alternative architecture, but DIRECT has several problems. The main issue is that it only "saves" money in the area of eliminating development of a second VSE rocket: the Crew Launch Vehicle AKA the Stick. It delibrately maintains the standing army of workers, which is the main cost issue with NASA manned space hardware. DIRECT tries to preserve all those jobs, while modern rockets (Atlas, Delta, Zenit and Falcon) all use radically fewer construction and deployment personell. DIRECT also has the
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Part of the contstraint NASA is forced to work under is precisely that: Retain the workforce. If they propose a plan that eliminates 10's of thousands of jobs, congress would slash the budget. By re-using as much existing technology & infrastructure as possible, this direct rocket plays into that mandate actually BETTER than NASA's currently proposed Ares I & V.
  • Practical, cheaper, reliable, reuses established components? Congress (ie the congressmen responsible for the district in which these subcontracting firms sit) would NEVER stand for such an outrage.

    Only communists would try to make such a direct assault on the jobs of American workers!*

    * jobs not actually filled by American workers

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