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X-Prize/Shuttle replacement

Posted by: cdoak - Sun Jun 20, 2004 10:48 am
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X-Prize/Shuttle replacement 

would you support an X-Prize that would help in replacing the present NASA Space Shuttles?
Yes 54%  54%  [ 14 ]
No 19%  19%  [ 5 ]
Maybe, if certain measures were took into consideration 27%  27%  [ 7 ]
Total votes : 26

X-Prize/Shuttle replacement 
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Post X-Prize/Shuttle replacement   Posted on: Sun Jun 20, 2004 10:48 am
G'day,

Just wondering if anyone has brought up the idea of having a space prize to help with the replacement of the Space Shuttle system that NASA is using. It seems to me that if the X-Prize can get so many entrants just for public flight, imagine some of the stuff that could be developed if the designs included a few of the commercial characteristics that are found in the Shuttle system, unlike the x-prize competitors like SpaceShipOne.

I'm probably just being a bit stupid in saying this, though if the interest were there, and if it was a hell of a lot cheaper to design, build, run and maintain than the present system, why not look into it as well as the tourist industry, like the present x-prize is doing?

Cheers,
Colin. :)


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jun 20, 2004 1:58 pm
There's been a lot of discussion regarding the Centennial Challange program as well as within the Aldrige Commision on not just vehicles but missions as well. I've heard prize numbers thrown around from $100 Million to $1 Billion. It's all talk at the moment though...


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jun 20, 2004 3:22 pm
I certainly wouldn't support such a prize. The point here is to further private space travel. The government and NASA have more than enough money at their disposal, and no interest in opening space to the public. Why should the privately funded X Prize be pissed away on such closed-door ventures?

The Centennial Challenge is a different beast, that's sponsored by NASA to encourage outside innovation, so I think it's a great idea to boost innovation and interest. However, NASA could not and should not open huge tasks such as a replacement shuttle to such a competition. The resources needed for this type of project are well beyond the means of all but perhaps 4 companies worldwide. Sorta defeats the point of a prize designed to encourage original grass-roots innovation, doesn't it?


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jun 20, 2004 4:32 pm
Actually, I'll take innovation at any level grass roots or otherwise. As long as it's a prize open to all comers with little restrictions, then I'd say go for it. I'd rather have a $1 Billion Moon Prize, than a NASA program spending $10 Billion and awarding it directly to Lockheed or Boeing anyway... I agree however, that there needs to be prizes and opportunities at all levels to encourage the creation of new industries and companies. However (again) if Rutan, Carmack, and others succeed in establishing a viable sub-orbital tourist industry, don't expect Boeing, Lockheed, TRW and the others to just "leave it to them." I expect they'll come in, in a serious way. Then it'll be a battle of operating costs, customer service, and efficiency.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Jun 21, 2004 12:22 pm
But that's the thing, you could call a prize to build a replacement shuttle "open to all" but in reality the only companies that could meet the requirements even for an initial design would be Boeing, Lockheed, etc. NASA's not going to spend billions developing some concept because the drawing looked good. Tasks such as the space shuttle are mostly engineering feats, not design ones. NASA needs to (and is) focusing on smaller prizes that innovative teams with minimal engineering capacity could actually win.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Jun 21, 2004 7:59 pm
I wouldn't support it, if it was only to give NASA another NASA owned vehicle into space. NASA needs to focus on doing the things NASA does best, and not in handing their own launch services. So the LV's, the ground support staff, even a great deal of mission control, can be done better, cheaper (and, with undeserved apologies to Dan Goldin), faster by companies whose bread and butter is providing launches not only to NASA, but to the private sector, the DoD, and "other government agencies". In fairness, I'm not speaking objectively.

I think they are going the right route, if they continue the way they are going, with procuring outside vendors to launch their Project Constellation needs. We'll see.


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Post Well, if it was a similar craft to the shuttle..............   Posted on: Tue Jun 22, 2004 10:22 am
with similar characteristics, but privately built and operated, would you support it? Hell, the thing could even auctioned an NASA could bid for it if need be. What gets me is why everyone thinks that a commercial/private space-based industry should just be limitted to Tourism flights. If we have got the technology readily available, is there any reason why a private company shouldn't be able to launch and retrieve their own (or others) satellites etc.?

What I'm saying is, the technology is essentially there. If we really wanted to, I bet that a commercialized shuttle-like craft could be designed and built within 5-6 years. Though the problem is getting off our backsides and doing something about it.

Also about that earlier post. Whos to say that private companies have to fund it and that only the big companies could afford to compete? If the design works, thats all thats needed for a competition. If NASA were to have a competition like that and the company that won it couldn't afford to build the craft on their own, they could take the royalties and the prize money, then sell parts of the manufacturing rights (though not the design ones) to other companies. Its not as hard or as dirty as some people make out. Hell, its done all the time in the car manufacturing business.

Anyway, i've probably just gotten tongue-tied and made an ass out of myself.

Cheers,
Colin.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Jun 22, 2004 11:02 am
"If the design works, that's all that's needed"

That would be a useless prize. An orbital shuttle-like vehicle is a 95% engineering feat. What's designed on paper is worthless and un-judgable unless the team can back it up with an actual craft. The whole point of the centennial challenges, just like the x-prize, is to encourage innovation, and that means engineering innovation as much as anything.

If we were going on design only, we wouldn't have had the revolutionary flight we had yestarday, nor any of the engineering breakthroughs they have achieved. That goes for all the other teams still out there experimenting every day and making new discoveries. What you're proposing is intellectual masturbation for design students and design companies, and that's not how real innovation and breakthroughs are made.


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Post Re: Well, if it was a similar craft to the shuttle..........   Posted on: Tue Jun 22, 2004 1:50 pm
cdoak wrote:
with similar characteristics, but privately built and operated, would you support it? Hell, the thing could even auctioned an NASA could bid for it if need be. What gets me is why everyone thinks that a commercial/private space-based industry should just be limitted to Tourism flights. If we have got the technology readily available, is there any reason why a private company shouldn't be able to launch and retrieve their own (or others) satellites etc.?

What I'm saying is, the technology is essentially there. If we really wanted to, I bet that a commercialized shuttle-like craft could be designed and built within 5-6 years. Though the problem is getting off our backsides and doing something about it.

Also about that earlier post. Whos to say that private companies have to fund it and that only the big companies could afford to compete? If the design works, thats all thats needed for a competition. If NASA were to have a competition like that and the company that won it couldn't afford to build the craft on their own, they could take the royalties and the prize money, then sell parts of the manufacturing rights (though not the design ones) to other companies. Its not as hard or as dirty as some people make out. Hell, its done all the time in the car manufacturing business.

Anyway, i've probably just gotten tongue-tied and made an ass out of myself.

Cheers,
Colin.


Not at all, and you are probably right about being able to build a replacement to the shuttle in 5-6 years. The question is, why do we need one? Companies that are trying to make a proffit on oribtal launches (SpaceX, SpaceDev, Boeing, LockMart, OSC, Energya, etc), aren't investing money in building a shuttle. The last company to really take a shot at it, (and used a $1 Gigadollar of taxpayer money to do so), was Lockheed Martin with the VentureStar/X-33 program. The Russians have a shuttle. Arguably a better shuttle then the US version, but you don't see them putting Energya boosters back in production and readying the Buran or Ptichka for flight. It will never happen. Like the Orbiter, Buran was just a technological showboat.

NASA is no longer requesting a new shuttle because it doesn't need a new one. It needs what is has left to finish ISS production, then it's finished. Project Constellation, JIMO, and any other BIG projects NASA has in the future can be accomplished at least at the outset with Delta IV, Atlas V, and possibly the SpaceX Falcon V ELV's. NASA will have to purchase these rockets, but these costs will be substantially lower then the $500 million or so per launch it costs just to launch the Shuttle. The Shuttle was supposed to bring costs down when it was envisioned, but when it was envisioned, it was conceived of having an extremely fast turnaround time, and for there to be payloads enough for it to handle. It has a rather poor turnaround time, as it turns out, and there really aren't enough payloads to be launching shuttles every other week even if we could. Building a new one won't change the paradaigm under which RLV's exist.

I think space tourism is the one market that can and will encourage RLV development. As of yesterday, the most recent successful RLV since Buran, is SpaceShipOne, and it was built, if not to handle tourists, then to pave the way for vehicles that can. If 15 years or so down the road there are SpaceShipThree's, and Plaid Armadillos taking people into Orbit, NASA will be able to save money on sending their own astronauts to LEO by buying tickets for them. Federal employees fly on commercial airlines when they travel (not talking about elected officials or .mil stuff here), so why not NASA astronauts when possible. So in that regard, a space prize for an oribital or even a lunar vehicle in a couple of decades might do the same thing that the X-Prize will hopefully do, for an even higher frontier.

But I'm pretty comfortable in saying NASA doesn't need a new shuttle, and should scrap the ones it has as soon as possible.

addendum: had to edit post. I wrote Titan IV, and meant Delta IV.


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Post I disagree on both counts.................   Posted on: Fri Jun 25, 2004 2:48 pm
1. we do know that most of the tech needed will work. Hell, most of it is in the US and European armed forces as well as commercial aircraft around today and if not there, then in Labs. So politely putting it, theres no way it can't be pre-evaluated before development. Whats been said so far I reckon is stupid because if we don't already have the technical data needed to evaluate which design is the best, well we've got a pretty crappy lot of enginers, scientists and technicians then. If what your saying is true, why would Rutan entrust Melville's life to a largely untested space-craft then?

2. we do need a shuttle like system of some sort, even if its a hellova lot smaller in physical size than the present one and rarely used in comparrison to other classes of spacecraft. Like what are you going to use to ferry cargo if we get a moon base opperational, and what about the building/maintainence of space stations like the ISS? I wouldn't trust an un-manned rocket with that sort of critical stuff just yet. What about the retreival of satelites that are either damaged, carrying hazardous material or sensative physical data? What happens if a SpaceShipOne-like tourist craft enters trouble way above the mark that was reached a few days back and is unable to safely re-enter the earth's atmosphere? How would you rescue the crew/passengers if you didn't have a docking facility on both ships? Strangely enough, i don't think that you would be able to do any of that kind of stuff at all without a shuttle-class (no, not the current Columbia Orbitor variant) vessel in operation. Even if what you do say does occur Astra, I can't see us being able to get away without a vessel that has at least a couple of the work-horse characteristics of the present US fleet of shuttles for at least 20 years, unless we have one very large and sudden jump in technology. The Columbia investigation has said a pretty similar thing to what i've just said. And if the engineers were allowed to do their own thing, I reckon that both the development, operation and turn-around would be a whole lot more efficient, cheaper, quicker and reliable than what a lot of people think.

While some of the points you guys are saying do have merit, I think that many of you have had the tourist flight concept fool with your brains a bit, cause theres no way that any of those classes of vessels (now and in the future) could do some of those jobs. All that this present hype is doing is hightening the public's determination to develop new technologies which will be present in later RLVs. In effect, its like the amazement we had with private flying during its first 30 years. Nothing more, nothing less.

Don't get me wrong, I like whats presently happening, its just that I don't think its the "be all and end all" of space travel.

Cheers,
Colin.

P.S. A nice Museum home would be a whole lot better than shuttle scrap metal.


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Post Re: I disagree on both counts.................   Posted on: Fri Jun 25, 2004 3:54 pm
cdoak wrote:
So politely putting it, theres no way it can't be pre-evaluated


Again, only several companies in the world have the capacity to design such a system with the supporting engineering evidence. It's the same for advanced consumer aircraft (jumbos, etc) or military fighters -- these could never be opened to public competitions for the same reasons. A shuttle is even harder!

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While some of the points you guys are saying do have merit, I think that many of you have had the tourist flight concept fool with your brains


No, I simply believe prizes should be smaller things that can invite serious and fresh competition. A shuttle redesign should be based on outsourcing and contract proposals. The companies that should be designing shuttle-scale craft do not work for "prizes", they work for contracts that they have a strong chance of securing. However, smaller goals such a lander, simple orbital vehicle, and other space-related tech would do better under a competition, and this is exactly what NASA is doing with the centennial challenge.

As for needing a shuttle, of course it's useful, but it's really not essential, not now. NASA has a large but limited budget. They can either spend the next 5-10 years budget on a new shuttle or they can spend it on getting to the moon with an eye on a lunar base. I know where I'd rather see the money spent!


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Post    Posted on: Fri Jun 25, 2004 4:04 pm
I can't help but thinking of the 'Solar Cross' rescue service from Dream Pod 9's Jovian Chronicles game world. :) Once space travel becomes ubiquitous, some agency capable of orbital and transorbital rescue ops will be necessary. At some point, an international police force akin to Interpol (SolaPol?) might become necessary as well...

Back on topic, several of the X-Prize concepts are space planes. As such, they will, once developed into orbital technology, be able to perform the Space Shuttle's work much cheaper and easier. And, basically, any field will advance, given time. The aviation industry has seen its share of advances over the years since 1981 (Shuttle Columbia's first flight). Those advances can easily be utilized by a 'shuttle replacement'. Combined with the X-prize contenders' work, I see a big future up ahead... A very exciting time to be living.

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Post Re: I disagree on both counts.................   Posted on: Fri Jun 25, 2004 5:38 pm
cdoak wrote:
2. we do need a shuttle like system of some sort, even if its a hellova lot smaller in physical size than the present one and rarely used in comparrison to other classes of spacecraft. Like what are you going to use to ferry cargo if we get a moon base opperational, and what about the building/maintainence of space stations like the ISS?


The shuttle can't get to the moon. It will never get to the moon. Why would you want to design anything with the added weight of wings as a lunar transport?

Quote:
I wouldn't trust an un-manned rocket with that sort of critical stuff just yet.


Strangely, the folks on ISS have been living off automated vehicles for quite awhile now. So did MIR's residents.

Quote:
What about the retreival of satelites that are either damaged, carrying hazardous material or sensative physical data?


How many damaged satellites do you think have actually been picked up and taken back by STS? The idea had a certain niftyness to it, but basically it's a nonstarter. Most of the REALLY expensive satellites (not counting certain other satellites owned by Other Government Agencies which may or may not exist), are in GEO and the shuttle can't reach them anyway. As for sensitive data.. If the satellite has some data that can't be downloaded back to earth and we don't want the Chinese taking their Shenzou up to without our permission (and thus causing war), then you simply command the kick motor to put the damned thing in highly eliptical orbit that takes it through the Van Allen belts so many times there isn't any data to steal from. Again, a nonstarter.

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What happens if a SpaceShipOne-like tourist craft enters trouble way above the mark that was reached a few days back and is unable to safely re-enter the earth's atmosphere? How would you rescue the crew/passengers if you didn't have a docking facility on both ships?


I assume you are talking about some orbital derivative of SpaceShipOne. If the oribtal vehicle is stranded, then hopefully there will be another oribal vehicle to get it down. This does not require a space shuttle. It stands to reason that a tourist vehicle would have quicker turnaround time then anything NASA would design. If NASA had designed the 747 it would have a 3 month turnaround time, cost $40,000,000 a flight to operate, require a standign army of 12,000 persons to keep running, and have its cockpit placed directly behind the exaust of one of the jet engines. Oh and it would be made of a special lightwieght alloy that shaves 500 kilos from the overall mass of the vehicle but which is paperthin and requires patch kits. Don't forget the fact that every passenger would need a G-suit for safety precautions, and that all 300 seats would be ejectable.

Quote:
Strangely enough, i don't think that you would be able to do any of that kind of stuff at all without a shuttle-class (no, not the current Columbia Orbitor variant) vessel in operation. Even if what you do say does occur Astra, I can't see us being able to get away without a vessel that has at least a couple of the work-horse characteristics of the present US fleet of shuttles for at least 20 years, unless we have one very large and sudden jump in technology. The Columbia investigation has said a pretty similar thing to what i've just said. And if the engineers were allowed to do their own thing, I reckon that both the development, operation and turn-around would be a whole lot more efficient, cheaper, quicker and reliable than what a lot of people think.


I think you miss the basic point. The concept of a vehicle that takes people up to orbit, and back down again is great. The concept of a vehicle that takes other stuff up to orbit and back down again is great. And if you can do both with the same vehicle and still keep costs and turnaround time down, great! But it doesn't need to be NASA that does it. NASA has proven repeatedly over the last three decades that it CAN"T build a decent resusale launch vehicle. STS, X-33, NASP. Them getting out of the launch business is a good thing.

Someone will build the CEV, be it LockMart, N-G (yay), Orbital, Boeing, or a consortium of some of them. And it will fly on EELVs. This is a much better plan then the old shuttle. Let NASA buy its launches for astronauts the same way it does for satellites and probes. The worst thing, IMHO, that NASA could do right now would be to try and resurrect the idea of Shuttle-C as a heavy lift vehicle for the lunar program. Hopefully the CEV will be something that can be used for other things well. And when the time comes, and it probably will, that there are orbital tourism vehicles besides the current one (Soyuz), then maybe NASA will buy tickets on them. But NASA doesn't need to be in the launch business, and as yet, it is not the Coast Guard of space.

Quote:
While some of the points you guys are saying do have merit, I think that many of you have had the tourist flight concept fool with your brains a bit, cause theres no way that any of those classes of vessels (now and in the future) could do some of those jobs.


If the job needs to be done, the tool will be developed. Wait and see.


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Post    Posted on: Sat Jun 26, 2004 2:15 pm
hello all,

This is my first post although i have been lurking here and around X Prize on and off for the past two years.

I think the STS has been a big and expensive detour for the last twenty odd years. The last thing to do is to repeat the long nightmare again. The problem with the Shuttle is that its designers made too much design compromises (Nixon era politics) and you end up and a space craft that had too many missions to perform.

As for the future, well, a big revamp of the industry is on the cards. NASA's manned program, if any should be limited to a basic manned space access much like the Soyuz or IMO, the replacement Kliper program and leave the heavy cargo work to the private industry and to concentrate on what they do best, fundemental space science that will trickle down to the space industry.

No, I will not support a replacement Shuttle if it means this sort of compromised design. I will support something like a OSP/CEV design that provides manned space access for a couple of folks to do science work.

To tell the truth, i wonder if and when the Shuttle replacement does come along, i wonder will there be a lease model where someone like Lockheed or Boeing builts and run the hardware and NASA just buys the flight.


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Post    Posted on: Sat Jun 26, 2004 5:13 pm
koxinga wrote:
...I think the STS has been a big and expensive detour for the last twenty odd years. The last thing to do is to repeat the long nightmare again. ...


I AGREE TOTALLY, koxinga! Well put, well put indeed.

From the very first I felt the shuttle to be a detour. NASA lost its vision. We should have been on Mars 10 years ago. I hope NASA regains some of the dreams it once had but, in the meantime, there's plenty of folk out there with the vision thing fully intact--such as X Prizers Burt Rutan, John Carmack, et al.

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