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Comment: Re:Fuck The Amazon Blue Turd (Score 3, Insightful) 43

by FatLittleMonkey (#48193835) Attached to: A Look At Orion's Launch Abort System

And yet Boeing is having to hire Blue Turd to develop their next family of large rocket engines for the USAF.

It seems that the much vaunted "experienced" players don't know how to build new rocket engines any more, whereas the non-show vanity project has actually designed and built new generation rocket engines within living memory. (LM is even worse, they have to use surplus Russian engines.) Meanwhile, the first SLS launches will reuse the 25yr old engines off the retired shuttle orbiters; not "engines of the same design", the actual engines pulled off the last three orbiters, burning them up on the first two flights (2017, 2021. No further launches are funded.)

Orion is a poor design, with no mission. The mission it was design for (lunar orbit) is no longer the national goal, and it's completely unsuited to the mission that is the national goal (BEO). It's over-weight, over-priced, and behind schedule.

SLS is a terrible design with no mission beyond its own existence, and is just appallingly overpriced. Boeing is receiving $2.8b for the first two SLS first-stages, in spite of them just being extended shuttle ET's with those recycled SSMEs attached. That's in addition to prior funding Boeing received for designs, reviews, production changes, etc. Just the unit cost. $1.4b each. For just the first stage. This is when NASA projected the SLS launch costs would be $650m per unit for the whole system, including integration and launch ops.

Comment: Re:Would this kind of system have saved Challenger (Score 2) 43

by FatLittleMonkey (#48193721) Attached to: A Look At Orion's Launch Abort System

This came up with Orion in the Ares I design. When solids are breached — either intentionally by range-safety or on-board abort systems, or due to the failure itself — they release a cloud of burning solid fuel debris. With a breach of liquid fuel tanks, such as the shuttle ET, you do get that big pretty fireball, but the actual heat being produced is fairly trivial; so as long as you are beyond the over-pressure wave, you are golden. Burning solid fuel is hot particles, when you pass back through the debris cloud, at the very least your parachute will melt and possibly the capsule itself will be damaged.

(At a more human scale, it's like the difference between getting that whumph of gas fireball from starting your gas griller, versus getting sprayed with burning oil. Accept that solid rocket fuel is more like thermite.)

In order to get far enough away from the solid rocket debris cloud, you need a monster LAS with monster acceleration. That results in a LAS as heavy as the capsule itself. And since Orion is already an over-size, over-weight capsule...

Comment: Re:Is Slashdot now fucking Facebook? (Score 2) 227

by FatLittleMonkey (#48174983) Attached to: Favorite clickbait hook?

Nothing to do with ads, or Facebook. "Clickbait" refers to the teaser headlines for articles/posts. Same thing you see on the covers of women's magazines, or used by TV news to keep people watching, where the key information is deliberately hidden. On internet sites, it's often taken to a meme-worthy extreme, where even the basic topic is hidden.

It used to be "What Jen's recipe for a great body?", "The secret your doctor doesn't want you to know!" and "Coming up, a story no concerned parent can afford to miss!"

Now it's "This one weird trick will change your life!", "You'll never believe what this woman does!", "You won't be able to stop watching this video!".

It works because SQUIRREL

Comment: Re:Power Source (Score 1) 349

I wonder what the trade is like between acres of cooling vanes vs. acres of solar panels. I guess it would depend on the efficiency of both.

In space, in a vacuum, studies apparently have shown that solar wins for the inner solar system. (And that's solar panels winning just compared to the reactor mass. Adding the radiator issue makes them win further out.)

On Mars, solar probably wins in terms of pure power/mass ratio, but solar requires storage for night power (so nearly double the panel area, plus the mass of the battery system) and extra power for heating (which the reactor gives you for free.) And in winter, the numbers get worse.

Same for the moon, except near the poles. With 24hr (or close to it) sunlight, solar wins. Anywhere else, nukes rule.

Mars's atmosphere is thin, but the temperature is very cold... seems like there ought to be a way to take advantage of that.

I was being dismissive: in reality a small reactor suitable for a base wouldn't need much cooling on Mars; after all, we're not talking gigawatt scale plants. So a small set of radiators — sticking up vertically, angled perpendicular to the path of the summer sun — would be plenty. But even that may nor be necessary, you'd use the waste heat for heating the base itself, then the lower grade heat for a greenhouse. At that point, the surface area is probably great enough for the atmosphere to carry the heat away without any special radiators.

[That atmosphere on Mars is annoying. It's too thin to be useful, but thick enough to get in the way. So it can carry enough heat away to make solar heating barely enough to keep greenhouses warm during the day, and at night (and in winter) you'd need loads of extra heating. Mars makes it hard to put up a freakin' greenhouse. And people want to live there.]

Comment: Re:Power Source (Score 1) 349

OTOH, on Mars you've got an atmosphere,


so this wouldn't be a problem anyway.

Even on Earth we have cooling towers.

But eventually large-scale power will be needed in the outer solar system. I suppose by then we'll have figured out fusion or something like that.

At the very least, we'll have a better idea what our real needs are. Right now we're like Christopher Columbus trying to design the NY subway system.

Comment: Re:Replace rockets with something reasonable. (Score 1) 349

The space shuttle was a 100+ ton space-plane launched on a Saturn V class launcher. Built without any real precursors, from 1970s technology. Every aspect of it pushed the technology beyond the state-of-the-art. No part of it was built to reduce operating costs. The original proposal sold to Nixon may have been to develop a low cost "space truck", but that was never part of the actual program development goals.

OTOH, Falcon 9 was intended solely to be cheap. And is already the cheapest launcher on the market as an expendable. Even partial reusability (first stage) is expected to lower launch costs significantly. Musk claims that launch operations costs are a small part of his launch costs, and even that will probably drop once his team controls their own site and range.

This gets back to moving away from the "standing army" model of spaceflight operations.

Comment: Re:Power Source (Score 2) 349

Very large radiators.

And the radiators must be protected behind a heavy shield, because the radiation degrades them too quickly. Most designs have the reactor, then a heavy shield, a long truss and then the rest of the ship. Running down the length of the truss, carefully shaped to remain in the shadow of the shield, you have huge radiators to dump the heat from the reactor. The truss, the radiators and the shield are all additional mass required for a nuclear propulsion on top of the reactor mass. Solar arrays require radiators too, but only a fraction of the size, see the ISS.

Comment: Re:Get real (Score 1) 349

that only puts a few hundred to at most a thousand-plus kg of payload on the moon per flight.

You're doing it wrong. With reusable launchers you want to split your payloads into cargo and fuel, launched separately. Most products have a U or J shaped reliability curve. Higher failure rate at the beginning, picking up manufacturing defects, then lower failure rate until end-of-life effects start to accumulate. Because fuel is cheap, you put that on the brand new, untested reusable launchers, and on the end-of-life launchers and fly them until they die. Because cargo is generally not cheap, you use the in-between launchers, at their peak reliability.

You put your cargo and TLI-engines into LEO on the most reliable launchers using the payload full capacity of your launcher, then you add fuel tanks and associated plumbing on the less reliable launchers, finally you launch bulk propellant on the lowest reliability launchers. Then you launch these large payloads from LEO. You lose some Oberth efficiencies, but you gain in using your launcher's maximum lifespan, and being able to launch larger individual payloads (in the 10-12 tonne range for F9, 50 tonne range for FH, and 250 tonne range for the Raptor-based MCT.)

Comment: Re:Power Source (Score 3, Interesting) 349

No form of currently-achievable propulsion yields a higher Isp than a fission fragment rocket

We're so far from FFR, we might as well talk about fusion drives, or Harold White's warp drive.

and a few other space options (such as a nuclear VASIMR-like mode)

My previous comments apply to NEP vs SEP. SEP has better power/mass ratios until you are somewhere near Jupiter, and realistically probably somewhere past Jupiter.

I cannot conceive that anybody will require multiplications at the rate of 40,000 or even 4,000 per hour ... -- F. H. Wales (1936)