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Is ESA's Aurora program serious space exploration?

Posted by: Andy Hill - Fri Mar 18, 2005 9:26 pm
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Is ESA's Aurora program serious space exploration? 
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Post Is ESA's Aurora program serious space exploration?   Posted on: Fri Mar 18, 2005 9:26 pm
I cant help thinking that ESA's Aurora program doesn't seem to be going anywhere. I look in on the site occationally and dont see much evidence of progress.

There's a few flashy graphics but not much else. Even the odd update would be good.

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh but I cant understand what the point of this program is, it would be good to see some information on future spacecraft rather than old pages that havent been updated for months.

The whole thing seems a waiste of bandwidth with very little substance.

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Post    Posted on: Sat Mar 19, 2005 11:47 am
As far as I remeber the short informations about it at the www.marssociety.de site there has been going on the handling of organizational problems in the past months. The problem wasn't an agreement of the ESA countries - that was no problem. The problems are first that our german government has decided not to participate in such programs because our government doesn't wnat to send german astronauts (...) and the second problem were the financial ressources. They were sitting around tables and tried to get rid of the problems.

My last information about is that they succeeded.

So a lot of things may have been delayed and there were nothing for updating the site.

Besides - this would be an argument for making ESA an EU-agency instead of leaving it as a joint agency of the countries perhaps.



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Post    Posted on: Sat Mar 19, 2005 12:23 pm
Ekkehard Augustin wrote:
Besides - this would be an argument for making ESA an EU-agency instead of leaving it as a joint agency of the countries perhaps.


It appears at the moment that ESA is mainly driven by France, Germany and Italy and countries like the UK are hardly involved at all (although that is down to the respective governments rather than ESA itself). If ESA is going to ever produce a serious manned space program it needs to get its other members more involved both technically and financially.

ESA's budget will have to be increased significantly and its programs should be more self inspired rather than reacting to what NASA is doing. There should be still greater involvement with Russia to produce a European manned spacecraft.

Aurora has no real detail on what it is trying to achieve.

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Post    Posted on: Sat Mar 19, 2005 5:48 pm
Agreed by far. I am suspecting a little bit that one of the problems is culture and history. Europe has much mor affinity to philosophy, püower, politics and arts than to technology. That seems to be valid in general. Regarless of pocket calculators, PCs, supercomputers or rockets, space vehicle drives etc. - the citizens and politicians of european nations and countries seem to consider it as strange very strange and don't know what to do with it. They rise their brows and suspect it to be nonsense - especially when there are economical problems. They don't see the chance in it to get positive effects at their economies. They don't manage to turn the mind to the focus of technology. And Germany is loosing sophisticated brain by sophisticated brain to the US.

May be that's the problem - and ESA as governmental agency won't try to change that.

I can imagine one way that could really change it - a european section of the XPRIZE Foundation formed by Starchaser and their club together with ARCA, Bristol Spacepalnes, the one private german space vehicle firm constructing unmanned rockest for nanosat and the german sections of AMSAT and Mars Society. A good representative of such a german section of the XPRIZE foundation could be Ulrich Walter, Ulf Merbold or Prof. Messerschmidt because they are known to the general public in Germany. May be QWubbo Ockels of the Netherlands will have such an effect too - and not to forget the european astronauts of Italy etc. (all the european countries.

In France the interest in private space missions and in manned european space flight to moon and Mars will be the least.

What about that?



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Post    Posted on: Sat Mar 19, 2005 6:23 pm
I think that ESA's problem is that it suffers from lack of leadership not cultural difference. ESA is basically run by a committe of all member countries with no one in overall charge, and not many things that are designed and controlled by committe succeed.

Also there is the question of military involvement, NASA has close ties with the US military which has an interest in persuing space assets, so the two compliment one another and share knowledge. There is no such relationship in ESA so knowledge/resources is limited to what is in house.

I am surprised that you think that France would show the least interest in space, since I think they have the biggest indiginous space industry in Europe. Also Europe's last attempt at producing a manned space vehicle (Hermes) was originally a French project. Still they did not have an X-prize team so you may be right that they have lost interest in space.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Mar 20, 2005 9:20 am
Well, ESA is practicly government based, so you know how that goes. Secondly, i dont think we can have many testsites for testing rockets. Maybe on the country side of France or Spain, but we really would need a large plain with no human inside, because they'll moan the second something is fired. For private teams, that will be the hardest problem and biggest in Europe.

About Aurora. I thought it was the NASA's next superspace plane? I think i read somewhere that ESA doesnt want any high-budget projects, so they'll stick with sattelites and things like that for a while.


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Post    Posted on: Sun Mar 20, 2005 10:30 am
Stefan wrote:
About Aurora. I thought it was the NASA's next superspace plane? I think i read somewhere that ESA doesnt want any high-budget projects, so they'll stick with sattelites and things like that for a while.


Yes you are right but ESA have also used the same name for the European exploration of the solar system programme.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Mar 20, 2005 5:02 pm
Hello, Stefan,

a few hours after writing my last post in this thread I found a good perspective concerning a european launch site that might be opened by an european subsection of the XPRIZE Foundation and the already existing US XPRIZE Foundation: There is a country in Europe that is starting to improve its economic conditions, to change into a liberal and democratic system and that wants to offer attractive markets and so on. That country wants to enter the EU and the EU seems to prefer another country being not that european. The territory of the country I am speaking of has around the size of Germany but the number of people is 30 million less.

That country may be a very good location for launches of Starchaser, Bristol Spaceplanes, Virgin Galactic and ARCA too. But I am not speaking of Romania - and ARCA will allways lanch from Romania perhaps. The country I am speaking of is Ukraine.

As long as they are not part of he EU there will not be that regulation that the EU is applying. So they have the chance yet to establish that freedom that is provided in the US to space travle firsm and space vehicle companies.. The Ukraine has oligarchs and the Ukraine is close to the russian oligarchs - and all these oligarchs might prove to be very good and true customers of the space travel firms and temas launching from the Ukraine. If so they not only may shoot Virgin Galactic into the profits and the other three too - they will leave their money in the Ukraine and to ukrainian hotels, discounters etc.

There would have a spaceport to be created in the Ukraine - let Interorbital Systems do that job to increase their small budget to fund their orbital and ASP goal. Their engagement will provide jobs for the Ukrainians too - for ukrainian companies and their employees.

The Ukraine may be interested - it could contribute a visible share to making them EU-fit to a certain degree.

I know - Bristol Spaceplanes now is going to launch in Malaysia. But they might change their mind if they could do it in the Ukraine too or they might use two launch sites.

What about those thoughts? :)

ESA would get the advantage to see prospering space vehicle firms that may decide to go orbital too. Then these european private space vehicle firms may provide own autonomous european vehicle for ESA to carry european astronauts to the ISS during lack of NASA's Shuttle and CEV.



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Post    Posted on: Sun Mar 20, 2005 7:12 pm
Ukrain? Isn't that a bit to far east? I'm not sure what the political and economical status is of the Ukrain, but i can imagine it wouldnt be much better then Russia or Romania. So from that perspective, is it a good thing to 'bombard' that country with hight tech stuff and a lot of huge buildingplans. You can't simply start there if you will be allowed to do that. It would take several years to get something going, and where does the money come in the meantime? My guess will be several years to build all the infrastructure needed, and then i'm not even talking for transportation for customers to even get into Ukrain. You will probably need a tgv network from all over Europe going into the Ukrain. That's gonna be a billioneuroproject for sure. And i doubt private funding can get that far. And i don't see the European parlement (if it has that authority by that time) putting any grand money in it.

Scaled has done this thing by staying relatively small. SpaceX is compared to Scaled huge, and they are allready having drawbacks in their plans. Sure, it's ambitious to get into orbit for that kindof money, but the drawbacks are there and there will be many more. And they have used/using a budget of around 150 million? And they have alot of emplyees allready and still hiring (if i may believe their website). Highly qualified engineers also cost money. You can't run a cost-efficient company (imo) with a huge staff of engineers.

Back to Europe. I'm talking about west-europe. Sure, Europe is a lot more, but face it. There are several countries who pour a lot of money into Europe, and a lot of countries get a lot of money. And the latter group is much bigger i'm afraid. And people in the latter group aren't wealthy enough to go into space at this time. Sure, you can find a thousand millionairs who want to go into space, but then what? The well runs dry and you have to get your millionairs from very far away, making it far less cost-effective meaning, the bussenis won't get as much money as it needs. My guess is, that you would need 1000 trips to break even, if you count in all the infrastructure and government things you'll have to abide to. So i don't think the Ukrain would be a good economical choice, allthough i must admit i dont have much information about Ukrain, just thoughts and things ;) So forgive me if i'm wrong.

Back to ESA then. It's kinda weird that we're flaming to NASA for being lumb and stuff, but ESA is the exact same thing for Europe. Well not exactly, we havent put many Europeans into orbit, but nevertheless they are doing something with the money they get from the tax payers. And i don't have any clue what that is. Andre Kuijpers, the Dutch guy that went to ISS for a week or so last year, had to get money from the Dutch government to even get there!!??? I don't get this. We have the ESA, we have those Ariane rockets from the French and there are a lot of very good engineers, no doubt, out there, who are willing, and possible even can, create something for a decent price which will get us beyond the orbit.

Argh heck, why do we think the ESA will be any better then NASA? Sure, they spend a lot less then NASA, but does it produce more results? Doubtfull. So let's forget about NASA & ESA, and probably all those other government space agencies, and let's focus on private spacetravel.


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Post    Posted on: Sun Mar 20, 2005 10:49 pm
Ekkehard

I dont think that Ukraine should be considered a real option as a place to create rocket facilities as the logistics and costs would be to great. Given that it has no indiginous space industry already associated with ESA, it would be starting from scratch. Much better to expand operations at Kourou and if large spaces are required work with the Russians.

I for one would not want any tax money I contributed (granted the UK's stake is tiny) going to somewhere that was not part of ESA or was not one of the major countries funding it. Operations should only be undertaken in countries that have a major financial stake in seeing them succeed.

Stefan

ESA is almost exactly the same as NASA in how it tackles problems but gets less of a bad time on the forums because it wastes less money achieving less. I'm pretty sure given a larger budget they would perform just as badly as NASA does.

I dont think that private European space companies are anywhere near strong or large enough to produce manned spacecraft that could transport 6 people to LEO and dock with the ISS, let alone go anywhere else. Having said that, with a lot of investment (multiple $100m) this could develop in the future but at present it seems likely that a craft would have to come from the US or Russia.

I see ESA as needing a goal of its own, not hanging on to the shirt tails of NASA if it wants to create public support. A production of a European manned craft would be a good project to do this and talk of mythical missions to Mars should be stopped. One step at a time build a manned spacecraft capable of putting Europeans on the ISS before committing to anything bigger. This is why I think that Aurora is just hot air that seems to make promises that are not going to be kept.

ESA should work with industry to produce a craft and support private companies with research contracts to encourage them to stay in Europe rather than dissappearing to the US. No point in having a European space industry based everywhere else, not much benefit for Europe in that.

ESA could develop a small craft that could assist the US program but it should not automatically adopt a support role to help the US to achieve its own aims. Lets face it the reality is it will be a US astronaut who goes back to the Moon or Mars and if a European is there also it will be because the US agreed to it. The public perception would not be that Europe achieved this it would see a European along for the ride because the US had a spare seat.

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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 21, 2005 7:46 am
Hello, Stefan, hello, Andy Hill,

I didn't have in mind to use EU-taxes to finance a spaceport in the Ukraine - I did have in mind ukrainian taxes, private funding by ukranian companies and by launchers and by sponsors.

Customers don't seem to have big problems to go there and transportation seems to be no problem too as far as I can observe it from Germany myself or by reading newspapers and watching the news in TV. And the Krim peninsula is a well-known and favorite vacations location.

My thought is to create a spaceport there - joint venture between privates and the ukrainian government. The launches would provide revenues for the ukrainian government too - and this would contribute to the government's finances. The launches and the creation of the spaceport would reduce the unemployment - which too would fund the government's finances.

This way the Ukraine could become a country the EU really wants to be a member - without investing EU-taxes, EU-budgets or any taxes or budgets of actual EU-members.

ESA will see that spaceport and the Ukraine will have the interest to make it interesting for ESA.

When this would be made and evolve this way the Ukraine may be a wanted future member only in ten years - the Ukraine would contribute something important and positive to the EU then. The Ukraine could be for the EU and ESA what Florida with its Cape Canaveral is for the US and NASA.

The initial point for Ukraine was its density of population which is much less then the german density of population - and this valid for the UK, Spain, France, Italy, Poland and nearly all the others too.

So - no EU-taxes, no member-taxes to be invested or transferred there.



Dipl.-Volkswirt (bdvb) Augustin (Political Economist)

PS: And - as already mentioned in the ASP section - Bigelow Aerospace has in mind to launch one version of Genesis Pathfinder onboard a Dnepr-rocket. The launch will be done by a ukrainian company. So there seem space activities to be going on in the Ukraine. And the Ukraine will be cheap compared to the EU or the US for a while - because they want to pull business there. They will be cheap compeared to the west but they still will get revenues.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 21, 2005 9:02 am
If the Ukraine wishes to expand its space facilities then I agree ESA should take advantage of them but ESA could do exactly the same with Russia now rather than wait a few years for Ukraine.

Anyway back on topic:- Are Aurora's objectives realistic given the present level of manned spaceflight undertaken by ESA? Should it concentrate on tasks that are easier to achieve? Would the creation of an European manned spacecraft create more support than supporting the US effort to reach Mars?

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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 21, 2005 1:27 pm
What US effort to reach Mars?

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Post    Posted on: Mon Mar 21, 2005 1:32 pm
spacecowboy wrote:
What US effort to reach Mars?


So whats all the blurb on the NASA site under "Mars, Moon and Beyond" then. :)

I know it doesnt appear anyone (including ESA) is going anywhere fast at the moment but thats supposed to be the aim.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Mar 22, 2005 12:53 pm
You got it, man. NASA has a blurb..... And that's just about it.

At least Branson has one working vehicle.

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