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NASA: Maybe $200 Million for first private orbital flight

Posted by: Furious Broccoli - Tue Jun 22, 2004 10:05 am
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NASA: Maybe $200 Million for first private orbital flight 
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Post NASA: Maybe $200 Million for first private orbital flight   Posted on: Tue Jun 22, 2004 10:05 am
http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jh ... ction=news

Wouldn't that be great? Orbital's such a big leap that another $10M X-Prize wouldn't cut it. However, if NASA offered anywhere near that amount we'd have dozens of teams aiming for orbital within 5 years. It's a shame the context is so sketchy, doesn't look very certain to happen.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Jul 22, 2004 1:52 pm
I would prefer another idea.

The Shuttle will still be used the next years. So NASA should offer a prize for reaching the Shuttle by a private funded manned spacecraft and docks to the Shuttle.

The private spacecraft should prove the ability to service the Shuttle.

The prize mainly should be that each team having success will be shared in ownership of the Shuttle.

When the Shuttle is planned to set out of service the private partners in ownership should be given to decide wether the Shuttle is to launched and then to remain in orbit - where it can be serviced (propellant, repair, oxygen etc.) - or to be separated into its components and elements for recycling by private spacecraft firms.

The Shuttle remaining in orbit for ever may be of good use as target of test-flights allowing checks of the spaceship to be tested, as hotel and it may be used further for servicing satellites.

That would be much better than 200,000 dollars. It would save the launch costs and the responsibility would move to a group of private firms.

This may allow special further advantages.

This way the Shuttle might serve the Centennial Challenges Program.

What about that?



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Post    Posted on: Thu Jul 22, 2004 9:36 pm
all i can say is prize + shuttle == no. you're thinking of the ISS, and shared ownership of that would just not work at all. $200 mil, plus a guarenteed contract to the company that does it for anything their vehicle is capable of would be reasonable.

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Post    Posted on: Fri Jul 23, 2004 7:39 am
Hello, TerraMrs

there seems to be a misunderstanding.

My idea isn't "prize + Shuttle" but "prize = Share of ownership in the Shuttle". This way first the amount of prizes can be extended beyond the boarders of the cash available for prizes and second the past investments to the Shuttle are providing more use and tend to be more efficient in comparison to set them out of service.

I really wasn't thinking of the ISS - NASA doesn't want tourists to be there, a privatized Shuttle might be used for tests, experiments, development, repairs and space tourism.

What are the reasons why that should not be possible?

If noone succeeds in reaching the Shuttle by private spacecraft before the Shuttle is set out of service this prize will end - if in opposite somebody succeeds he is able to service the Shuttle and it doesn't need to be set out of service but only to remain in orbit.

May be somebody finds a concept to succeed.



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Post    Posted on: Fri Jul 23, 2004 8:30 pm
I can't speak for TerraMrs, but I know I'm confused.

Are you thinking that the shuttle would then just stay in orbit -- forever? And this new, private ship would service it in orbit? Or do you mean that in the case some problem occurs during a shuttle mission, this new craft could go "help it out" so it could finish out it's mission? Now that might be something.... Never mind space tourism: I want to open the first Roadside Assistance provider to NASA!

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Post    Posted on: Fri Jul 23, 2004 8:59 pm
I a, thinking the first - the shuttle sholud stay in orbit and private spaceshap should service it in orbit. Private firms and crews can use it to test space-oreinted methods of constrauction, production and repair -fpr example. Another possibilty is to use a part of the Shuttle as a hotel.

That is what I think should be AFTER NASA has started using another spacship instead of the Shuttle.

But the private firms servicing the Shuttle have to prove to be able to service it by reaching the Shuttle BEFORE NASA starts using another spacship. A Share of ownership in the Shutlle should be the prize for the proof of ability to reach it and dock to it and perhaps additionaly to refuel propellant.

The interesting poibnt is the cargo bay of the Shuttle.

Please ask for further explanation if this can't remove your confusion.



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Post    Posted on: Fri Jul 23, 2004 11:59 pm
It'll never happen. I really cannot see NASA handing over their most prestigious piece of hardware to a bunch of small-scale private contractors to play Junkyard Wars with :-P What if one of them breaks it when they're attempting to "service" it?

If private companies want to develop space hotels, they'll use Bigelow modules or similar. They're bigger than Spacelab modules in a Shuttle bay (more habitable volume), more versatile, much cheaper and easier to maintain, probably better radiation protection, etc. etc... Why slave to maintain 30-year-old obsolete equipment when you can work with new tech instead? ;-)


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Post    Posted on: Sat Jul 24, 2004 12:38 pm
First my proposal should be considered as a first step. The shuttle would be a chance to supply quickly a small hotel in space to prove to be ready fpr the market at nearly zero costs of construction, The greater and of course under other aspects better hotel will come later and partly financed by those who payed for being in th first small hotel in the shuttle.

But very more interesting I consider the use of the Shuttle as a platform for development of technologies fit and optimized for space and for evaluations of alternative production methods for objects to be used in space. NASA might get results from these test and experiments.

The firms, crews and teams might develop tools there that remove the problems the astronauts have at putting together the ISS, They used tools normaly used for construction on earth - that means under gravity conditions. But in orbit these conditions don't be valid.

Other teams might develop quite new techniques to put together satellites. Now all elements and components of satellites are produced on earth, put together on earth and then as one whole heavy object launched to the orbit - and sometimes totally lost that way. May be experiments in the cargo bay of the Shuttle will show ways how to put together satellites more cheaply and reducing the risk of total loss in space. Then the components and elements can be launched to orbit by smaller spaccrafts and as packages of less volume. There may be possibilities to reduce the transportations costs this way.

Additionaly the experiments might show ways to construct a spacecraft in space that will be nothing elese than an upper (third) stage to move something to geostationary orbit (for example). If that would prove to be working the requirement of third stages will be removed for ever: you might launch each satellite or all its components to that orbit the reusable space based upper stage can catch it or the device to put together the ccompoenents can catch them. In this last case the components will be put to gether and then the reusable upper stage will catch the satekllite and move it to the geostationary orbit and then return to the lower orbit.

All this may take place in the cargo bay of the Shuttle for development and improvement only - Prototyping.

And only as a first step - if the things tested and experimented there prove to work there will be constrcted production facilities in space.

The Shuttle will be something similar to the technology parks we have in Germany - the goverment is providing them for use of people starting up an enterprise without having any financial ressources, any production facilities etc. These people are leasing bureas etc. in these technoly parks.

There wouldn't be any danger of steeling or conquring the Shuttle this early time I suppose because this requires steeling the spaccrafts first. To do this one has to know how to handle them - and there are no schools yet to learn that.

It would be interesting to read more answers concerning the idea.



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Post    Posted on: Sun Jul 25, 2004 12:34 am
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
First my proposal should be considered as a first step. [...]
The Shuttle will be something similar to the technology parks we have in Germany - the goverment is providing them for use of people starting up an enterprise without having any financial ressources, any production facilities etc. These people are leasing bureas etc. [...]


Pretty interesting idea, in my opinion.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Jul 25, 2004 3:05 am
DIAMANDIS gives his reciepe for a successful prize in his latest testemony, and I don't believe tying a prize to the shuttle and or ISS is going to fit the bill. DIAMANDIS specifically mentions that the DARPA robotics prize was NOT how to do a prize. The rules are extremely important in the overall success, and after setting them without too much specificity, NASA would need to--get out of the way.

Given the national investment in the Space Shuttle & ISS, there would be too much pressure to "engineer the successful solution" into the rules for "safety reasons."


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jul 25, 2004 9:21 am
The Shuttle is NOT DESIGNED for very long durations (months - years) in orbit, nor is it designed to be serviced and replenished in orbit. Attempting to use it for such will create more (potentially fatal) engineering problems and more hassle than the exercise would be worth. For instance, IIRC the Shuttle attitude thrusters use hydrazine/nitrogen tetroxide, which is hideous stuff (toxic/corrosive/carcinogenic) and even worse to have to handle in microgravity.

The Shuttle orbiter is a far more complicated (and consequently fragile) machine than you need for the space habitat and "spacedock" tasks you describe. Obey the KISS principle ;-)


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jul 25, 2004 4:02 pm
yea, it's an interesting idea, but i think the shuttles will end up in museums (or AS museums) rather than sitting up in orbit, though it would be interesting to have one sitting in a fixed orbit, then tourists could visit and do a spacewalk around/inside it as part of the trip. but that's not justification for a prize to service it. the idea's not bad, but 'joint ownership' of anything nasa is doomed to failure through a bureacratic nightmare of epic proportions. the service idea would be great for ISS or some similar station though.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Jul 25, 2004 4:41 pm
Hello, Stellvia,

that the Shuttle isn't designed for staying in orbit and serviced there doesn't mean that these both are able to yet. It might be cause of suboptimality only - if so a Shuttle in orbit might be an ideal opportunity to check and to work out by experiments what to improve. The ISS doesn't fit because it's a station but it will be important to be able to do with a spaceship what seems to be posiible with a station. Additionaly the ISS is for scientific research only - so a special testbed for spacecrafts in orbit is required.

What problems in detail are to expected due to Shuttle-design?



Hello, Irving,

what about possibilities of cooperation betwenn the XPRIZE-Foundation and NASA? For example NASA might agree to giv the Shuttle similar to my proposal and the Foundation works out the rules? Concerning safety reasons and national investment Dr. Diamandis' connections to the Congress (the testimony etc.) might help to get all additional agreements required.

Under financial and fiscal aspects the way in described might reduce the financial problems of NASA as well as of the government.



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Post    Posted on: Sun Jul 25, 2004 11:49 pm
Seems like of unlikely that the Shuttle will continue to fly after the ISS construction is finished. O'Keefe has been very unwilling to entertain even a repair mission to Hubble so that chances of the Shuttle on some test mission related to the Challenges outside the assembly schedule is close to nil.

As for it's fate after that, don't be surprise if it ends up in some museum (Smithsonian) somewhere or outdoor display (Huntsville).


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Post    Posted on: Sun Jul 25, 2004 11:56 pm
koxinga wrote:
As for its fate after that, don't be surprise if it ends up in some museum (Smithsonian) somewhere or outdoor display (Huntsville).


That would be a terrible waste of good government surplus.

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