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Comment Re:I don't get it (Score 1) 130

It's a damn shame they didn't do it with the shuttle external fuel tanks. Those things were huge. How many would we have in use now if that was part of the design?

They didn't do it because the ET would have become the cargo - the Orbiter itself couldn't carry much beyond it's crew. On top of that, the altitude they would have been delivered to would have required regular reboosts. (Any tank launched before the turn of the century and not reboosted would be gone by now.) On top of *that* it required a number of dedicated Shuttle flights to lift all the stuff needed to outfit the interior.

In the end, using external tanks was very, very expensive for very little functionality.

Comment Re:Too bad they can't use the SS ext. tanks (Score 1) 130

Shuttle ETs never got up to a stable orbit. It would have been possible to use the OMS to take them up there, but then the Shuttle would have had basically no payload capacity on that mission.

And even then, the tanks would be low enough to require regular reboosts. Without reboosts, any tanks launched before around the turn of the century would already have re-entered.

Comment Nonsense (Score 4, Interesting) 130

From the interview: "The reason that Skylab wasn't build like this is kind of a strange story: [NASA] had fewer Saturn IBs than they had Saturn Vs, so von Braun just decided to use a Saturn V and fly up a "dry" lab, with all of the equipment aboard it already."

Um, not quite. When a 'spare' Saturn V became available (because a lunar mission was cancelled), they swapped from a IB 'wet' lab to a V 'dry' lab because the 'wet' labs were very expensive for their very low capability. The expense came from needing to have considerable amounts of structure and infrastructure designed to survive inside the cryogenic conditions inside the tank, from redesigning the tanks to serve a dual role, and then re-certifying the whole deal for flight. The low capability came from the requirement that everything that couldn't survive a bath in deep cryogens having to be manhandled into place via the very narrow docking hatch. While a dry lab was more expensive than a wet one - the leap in capability was far greater than the leap in cost.

That's also why NASA built their ISS modules with the large CBM hatches - manhandling large amount of stuff through tiny hatches (like those the Ixion will use) simply isn't very efficient. (And that's without considering the headaches that splitting all your equipment down into tiny chunks brings. Not just handling - but installation and integration too.) All of the ISS cargo craft that NASA is responsible for uses CBM, as does the Japanese HTV.

"In the commercial sector, it's getting interesting, because people are taking more risks. Not unnecessary risks, but acceptable risks to reduce costs."

Moving your man hours (outfitting the module) from expensive ones on the ground to hellishly expensive ones on orbit is not a recipe for cutting costs. Especially since you still have to pay for the launch of the module (Centaur) *and* the launch of the stuff to go inside it. (You can't piggyback because no Centaurs are headed anywhere near the ISS.) Even in lower inclination orbits, the mission module, the rendezvous systems, and outfitting the Centaur to survive years on orbit are all going to cost money and cut into it's payload - which will make piggybacking unattractive to Centaur's usual customers.

"We want to keep hardware costs as low as possible: it's not about building something on the ground that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Why do that when you have perfectly good hardware going to space, paid for already?"

You don't have perfectly good hardware going to space already. You have a vehicle designed for a completely different purpose and completely lacking the "stuff" customers will pay you for going to orbit.

Or, in short, nothing in the article or interview leaves me with a warm fuzzy that they've solved any of the well known problems with 'wet' systems.

Comment Re:What Envirmental Wacko caused it? (Score 1) 319

The system itself worked correctly, as the containment system properly contained the leak.

o.0 A huge chunk of the storage facility is contaminated because a supposedly stable drum exploded - no, the system emphatically did not work correctly. It was never supposed to blow up in the first place.

Comment Re:Lol (Score 1) 93

Probably get modded down. Don't give a fuck. I think this shit will/has been pushed out the door too early because money. Wait til it kills someone else.

Don't worry, the Tesla and Musk apologists will find a way to explain it away. Flat earthers and bible thumpers have nothing on them when it comes to selective reality.

Comment Re:How durable? (Score 1) 160

And there you have it. Immediately upon any new like this, some slashdotter comes on and tries to derail the idea with their personal situation.

And there you have it - some asshole getting bent out of shape because a perfectly reasonable question was asked about something that millions of Americans deal with annually.

Comment Re:Why not stick with the current docking system? (Score 1) 77

APAS (what you call the Russian docking system) is just a docking system - it mechanically attaches two units. NDS (the new system) in addition to the mechanical attachment includes power, data, and communications interfaces.

And it's not like all docking and berthing ports on ISS are APAS - there's also CBM. Which is used for the MPLM cargo containers, the Japanese HTV vehichles, the Cygnus cargo vehicles, and the Dragon cargo vehicles.

Comment Re:Politics as usual (Score 1) 110

One would need to examine the guy's actual politics before clutching pearls about targeting a "pro-democracy" activist as described by The Guardian.

If one is not too lazy to google, one discovers that Fiji was under a military goverment (rather than a democratically elected one) in 2012. Fullman is implicated in a number of rather unsavory acts, but it's difficult to determine if he really was associated with violence in support of restoring democratic governance or if that's just the dictatorship trying to discredit the opposition.

Comment Re:He was a bigger man than Anthony Daniels (Score 1) 51

Who could have imagined that because off the shelf analogue radio controls were so crappy in the 1970s and a series of accidental meetings, it was easier to hire him to steer the inside of the R2D2 Prop.

Practically anyone who knew anything of the technology of the time would have easily imagined that somebody small would be hired to play R2D2. Just a few years before Silent Running had been filmed, using amputees to play the 'droids - something widely known at the time. Nor was using physically small people particularly new - Hollywood has been doing it for decades.

I was 15 when Star Wars was released, and wasn't at all surprised to learn that there was a real actor inside R2D2.

Comment Re:sigh (Score 1) 225

The Internet was ours then, or at least it was the playground where we were top dog.

The latter is spot on - someone else's property, someone else's equipment, paid for with someone else's money. You just played king of the hill on it and imagined yourselves rulers of all you surveyed.

That playground has grown to encompass the entire world, but our role in it hasn't grown with it, and we became largely irrelevant.

Your role hasn't expanded because you never had a role. You're asking for the equivalent of a management role at Exxon because some franchisee opened a gas station in what used to be the woods you played in as a kid.

Comment Re:a maintenance nightmare (Score 1) 188

As a former marine engineer I have doubts.

Well, back in the 1700's when you retired things were no doubt different. Here in the 21st century we have better than a century's experience operating complex mechanical and electrical systems are sea. We have over half a century's experience operating and maintaining things like drilling platforms, etc...

Rest well gramps, the younger generation has it well under control.

Comment Re:Dumb (Score 1) 145

Were the airlines really in that tough a shape for that long of a period of time?

If they have only recently returned to profitability and actually experienced extended times of economic uncertainty, how do you explain Boeing outperforming the S&P 500 and gaining 8000% in value since 1978?

You do understand that Boeing is not an airline? As always, the money isn't in panning for gold - it's in selling the pans. Not to mention drawing a straight line between 1978 and 2017 misses some deep valleys in between. Not to mention Boeing does a lot more than just commercial airliners.

And airports and crowds? Airports I've flown through for 20 years are only bigger and busier than they ever were. I don't remember a time when I thought the airport was too big or empty, either, it's been steady if not increasingly busier and more crowded. Airports all seem to expand, not contract.

It's quite possible for volume to go up and margin to go down, or even go negative at times. Aircraft cab cost more than budgeted. Fuel prices can go up more than predicted. Cutting margin to the bone to compete on popular routes can turn a cash cow into hamburger. Etc... etc...

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