Jump to content

To the Moon, old style, combined with improved tech.


Recommended Posts

Popular Mechanics, March issue, features a very nice article about NASA's plans for going to the Moon by 2020.


Article Link


Some Quotes:


After reviewing an initial round of proposals, NASA announced the basic design parameters in September 2005. Many space buffs were disappointed. Instead of Lockheed Martin's proposal for a sleek, high-tech space plane, first previewed in PM's June 2005 issue, the agency decided to build its new spacecraft with off-the-shelf technology. The squat "spam-in-the-can" capsule that NASA unveiled was at first glance a dead ringer for the 1960s-era Apollo spacecraft. Even the launch vehicles were to be pieced together using warmed-over components from both the current shuttle and the Apollo-era Saturn boosters.


Scott Horowitz, NASA's associate administrator for Exploration Systems, defends the agency's approach. "Sure, we'd love to have antimatter warp drive," he says. "But I suspect that would be kind of expensive. Unfortunately, we just don't have the money for huge technological breakthroughs. We've got to do the best we can within our constraints of performance, cost and schedule."


Orion also will boast a number of new tricks, such as hands-off autodocking and the ability to autonomously loiter in lunar orbit for up to six months. Its dual-fault tolerant avionics, based on those of the Boeing 787, will be able to sustain two computer failures and still return the vehicle to Earth. The avionics also will have open architecture, which means they can be easily updated and modified.


Shuttle astronauts have virtually no possibility of escaping a failing vehicle. They literally bet their lives that nothing will go wrong during launch. In addition to placing Orion at the top of the rocket and away from falling debris, NASA's return to a vertical "stack" architecture permits a launch abort system (LAS) that can blast the capsule to safety. According to the agency, this capability will make Orion 10 times safer than the shuttle.


The heart of the launch abort system is the abort motor. In case of a problem, this ATK solid-fuel rocket, with four outward-canted reverse-flow nozzles at its apex, will automatically fire for 2 seconds with some 500,000 pounds of thrust  more kick than the Atlas rocket that boosted John Glenn into orbit. In a launchpad abort, this brief 15-g jolt would yank the Orion off the top of the rocket and clear of any fireball, propelling it to 600 mph and 6000 ft. Meanwhile, eight attitude thrusters and two small adjustable wings, called canards, would steer Orion east from Cape Canaveral out over the ocean to a spot 5000 ft. offshore. Parachutes would deploy at about 4000 ft. for a splashdown next to waiting recovery boats.


At about 14,000 pounds, Orion's launch abort system will weigh roughly two-thirds as much as the crew module itself. That's a punishing penalty in the fanatically weight-conscious world of rocket science  especially for a system that in all likelihood will never be used, but simply jettisoned. The loss of the Challenger on launch, however, has made NASA willing to pay that price.



(Illustration by Transluszent.de as hosted on popularmechanics.com)



Well, I can keep on quoting, the article has a decent size, for the entire article text, read on here.





So what's your take on the design decisions, what's more important, discoving new tech before going to the Moon and using it to get there (be it a bit later), or get there sooner using somewhat older tech? How much sacrifice in efficiency is safety worth? What seems to be the best method of landing and re-entry in your opinion? Land/sea? Is the skip re-entry worth it? Would you use retrorockets for a dry landing or an 'airbag' based landing system? Is the old-style system they're going for with little re-usability worth the extra cost for each individual mission?


More questions...



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Uh, I suspect this is just going to result in a shuttle type situation. Meaning, you don't invest now and you pay later, when things explode and people die.


This is the inherent problem of NASA, it's a big bureaucracy that has to hope that congress can go more than a year without slashing budgets or such.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now

  • Create New...