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Education in space vehicle construction etc.

Posted by: Ekkehard Augustin - Wed May 09, 2007 8:34 am
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Education in space vehicle construction etc. 
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Post Education in space vehicle construction etc.   Posted on: Wed May 09, 2007 8:34 am
I am wondering a bit if there might be any serious reason to consider NASA, ESA etc. as the major or even only source of serious eduction in design, development and construction of space vehicles, satellites, interplanetary probes, space stations, technologies or the like.

My personal education in Informatics - which I never studied at university - shows that such a reason can't exist.

In principle construction etc. of space technologies requires to know at least elements and components of Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Biology (manned flights).

So there is not a single reason to try to learn from the governmental agencies.

To properly apply the sciences mentioned is a topic of Engineering as far as I know or view it - principles of construction and development that mainly provide transparency, coordination, insight into what another person has done and for what reasons, organization, compatibility, scalability, possibility to apply software and keep oversight - the list doesn't claim to be complete. The principles and standards will be won from expereince - experience about human capabilities, unavoidability of human failures and errors (they are human nature!). The principles and standards in so far are developed to handle human imperfectness.

Nothing of this requires a look to the doings of governmental agencies.

Looking at what others do - Micro Space, Armadillo Aerospace, SpaceX, Scaled Composites, Rockeplane Kistler, t/Space, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing etc. or even the agencies - simply means to do studies of practice which adds flesh to the theories, principles and standards and illustrates the reasons for principles and standards: it provides insight into Know How.

The same is valid for Informatics, Enterprise Economics and Political Economics.

So I have problmes why to look towards the agencies and even stare at them.



What about it?



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


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Post    Posted on: Wed May 09, 2007 4:26 pm
Who says we should look at them? I doubt there are many on this forum who think NASA, Russian space agency and ESA are somehow a rolemodel.

It's like learning to run a business by studying the most bureaucratic instution ever conceived by mankind. Then the engineering part becomes totally insignificant in the whole picture.

We need a lot more miljonairs and billionairs who want to startup a rocket company. Like Elon is doing.


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Post    Posted on: Thu May 10, 2007 1:19 pm
I think that government run space agencies are a bad place to look if you want info for a commercial space company, their primary goals are often very different.

NASA for example tend to use large, complex and expensive designs which while beautifully engineered are not often the best solution from a total sense (including cost and producability). Take the SSME, absolutely beautiful engine from an engineering standpoint but at the sacrifice of cost and complexity, all for 1 or 2 seconds ISP and don't even get me started on hydrogen as a propellant.

I'm doing a course on aerospace structures design right now and I think that gives me plenty of information on the design of high strength, low weight, 0 margin of safety structures however I suppose if you really wanted to cover rockets properly you'd want more info on thermal protection and high mass ratio tankage. Also now with the extreme power and usability of FEA and CFD analysis I think that a better rocket can be designed with a much smaller engineering team than ever before, if someone was willing to put in the money. I’d also be interested in the feasibility of a 2 stage to orbit, re-usable booster lifting body design.

The booster would be a lifting body similar to the x-33 while the second stage would be a much more conventional expendable second stage design. The booster would lift off vertically and fly as a rocket (using a linear aerospike most likely, more efficient) until staging around 80-100Km at which point the second stage would continue on to orbital velocity. The deltaV of the first stage would only be less than half orbital velocity and so the TPS requirements for its re-entry would be nowhere near as stringent as for a SSTO version. Additionally the lifting body mass ratio would have to be nowhere near as high as that of an SSTO which means a cheaper and more conventional structure, thus solving the main problems that boned the venture star (budget and TPS requirements). Having your booster fully reusable and able to land where you want it rather than in the ocean would solve a bunch of massive headaches for any prospective commercial rocketry company and could conceivably lower costs to competitive levels.


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Post    Posted on: Mon Aug 13, 2007 5:56 pm
As a mechanical engineer working for a commercial space company perhaps I can share some of my experiences. I work for Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, CA.

http://www.ssloral.com/

We design and manufacture commercial geosynchronous telecommunications satellites. I currently work in spacecraft configuration design but most of my time at Loral has been in manufacturing.

The first thing is that NASA, the DoD, the USAF, etc do not design or build any space hardware. They contract out to private corporations like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Spectrum Astro, and dozens of other contractors. I spent two years at Lockheed Martin and all engineering was done by Lockheed Martin employees. Every company has their design and manufacturing standards that all engineers follow. Often they are the same or very similar.

The large corporations have a near monopoly on the large space contracts because space vehicles are extremely complex machines and take a great deal of time and money to create.

My company is strictly a commercial company (at least for now). But designing and manufacturing a commercial satellite is an extremely difficult thing to do. We have many experts in diverse areas like antenna design, RF engineering, structures analysis, thermal analysis, manufacturing engineering, electrical engineering, materials engineering, quality engineering, MAGE design, etc., and that doesn't event take into account the electrical and mechanical technicians that test and build the satellites. Designing and building a manned spacecraft is even more complex because now you have to add the a life support system and ergonomics to the equation.

As for all the small startup space companies we all get excited about and jump up an down just remember this. Except for Scaled Composites none of these other companies have actually launched anything hardware into space yet. I hope they do because they would usher in a new era of space travel but let's wait until they actually build space ready hardware. Think back to the X-Prize competition. There were over 20 teams that officially entered the competition. Other than Scaled Composites how many of the other teams actually built any significant space hardware? I believe the Canadian Arrow team was the only other team I believe. So what happened to the other teams? :?:

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Post    Posted on: Mon Aug 13, 2007 6:20 pm
Rocket Scientist, "What happened to the other teams"

Well i think they are still working hard, we have posted quite a bit of news here since the XP, personally i have been paying close attention to Starchaser, they seem to be making large strides on the business front at the moment but i think we are expecting some launches soon! there was some starchaser news last week. Also i am pretty sure other teams are making progress, but to be fair i think money hit a lot of them hard!

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Post    Posted on: Mon Aug 13, 2007 6:58 pm
Rob Goldsmith wrote:
Rocket Scientist, "What happened to the other teams"

Well i think they are still working hard, we have posted quite a bit of news here since the XP, personally i have been paying close attention to Starchaser, they seem to be making large strides on the business front at the moment but i think we are expecting some launches soon! there was some starchaser news last week. Also i am pretty sure other teams are making progress, but to be fair i think money hit a lot of them hard!


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Rob

Yes, you are correct. Money is the large issue. I remember most of the X-Prize teams had nice websites, pretty computer generated presentations and grand mission statements. But when it came time to actually manufacture real space hardware the realities of money and expertise became barriers.

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Post    Posted on: Sat Aug 25, 2007 6:44 pm
Rocket Scientist,

There were many X-Prize teams tht did work on remarkably small budgets. As you mentioned Canadian Arrow (however, when PlanetSpace acquired Canadian Arrow, all the work seemd to stop) but the one that comes to mind is ARCA. They are still doing work and have another test scheduled for September.

I have lost faith in the "Press Releases" from Alt.Space companies.

Rob Goldsmith pointed out that Starchaser is making "large strides on the business front". How do you know that? According to RpK, their funding efforts are going well as is everything else inculding the RocketPlane XP. So just because Steve Bennet says StarChaser is making great progress does that make it true?

At this point why do Alt.Space companies continue to issue comments that are meaningless?

Do any of you buy any of this anymore?

My $ 0.02 worth.

Buck.Bunny


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Post    Posted on: Sat Aug 25, 2007 9:30 pm
Buck Rogers! All we can go by is that we can see they have new hardware, new buildings, new HQs in the US, new engine testing, new staff vacancies. What else do you want? a full release of all their finances and met objectives? Check their site, there is progress. It may be seen a slittle but its in the right direction.

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Post    Posted on: Wed Sep 05, 2007 3:37 pm
Rocket Scientist wrote:
Other than Scaled Composites how many of the other teams actually built any significant space hardware? I believe the Canadian Arrow team was the only other team I believe. So what happened to the other teams? :?:


I would certainly say Armadillo. There was an interesting statement in their latest update:
Quote:
Pixel had more rocket powered flight time that weekend than Space Ship One had in all of its flights combined. We have also spent more on operational consumables (helium, lox, alcohol, truck rental) than the vehicle itself cost, which is probably a first for any rocket vehicle.


They are one small company that could easily build an 'X-Prize' capable vehicle if they wished to at this time, possibly in six months from start to first test flight, it'd be a tethered flight though. Of all the small startups I think they have the best chance to actually orbit something in the next five years or so. It'd probably be something along the lines of sputnik but I think they'll certainly get something to orbit. Once that happens I'm sure all sorts of other interesting stuff will begin to happen.

Another favorite of mine is JP Aerospace. They're always launching their experimental airships and I think they will get to the region of space that Space Ship One did sooner or later.


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