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Possible Craft

Posted by: Sev - Sun Oct 10, 2004 4:10 pm
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Post Possible Craft   Posted on: Sun Oct 10, 2004 4:10 pm
I've heard quite a few people here comment that the goal to have the prize won by 2010 is "unattainable", "impossible", and a "publicity stunt". Well, I'm not involved in the competition in any way, nor am I a professional on the subject, but I figured that I would point out a few things, and post a few things here that I have read on various news groups, some of which are from people who are intending to try and win the prize.

Key differences to the X Prize
The main difference is the fact that the winning craft does not have to be 90% resusable, as the X Prize rules state. While it does have to be partly reusable, there is no defined limit, and this allows us to play with the rules a bit.

Secondly, the prize is significantly larger - $50M, and also it has a proper commercial venture for the winner. This makes it a lot more lucrative than the X Prize.

The third advantage, and a somewhat understated one, is that there is already a lot of experience in launching things into orbit, experience that did not exist for the X Prize. Indeed, there are only really three craft which were re-useable and reached space (or could have): The Bell X-1, the X-15, and SS1. And, in case you had not noticed, they do have a lot of similarities :)

So how to win it?
Well, one possible to win it, which was mentioned on a news group, would be to use a pre-existing launch vehicle. There are currently two "reusable" launch vehicles, the SpaceX Falcon series, and Space Shuttle. Kistler may also have one at some point in the future, although that is still speculation.

The SpaceX Falcon V has a launch capacity of about 4 tonnes into low earth orbit, for a cost of $13M. This means you could have your two launches in 60 days, and still have some $24M to spend on the launch capsule. Can you fit five people into a launch capsule weighing under 4 tonnes? Most definitely.

The best precedent for a small manned re-entry capsule is the gemini capsules, launched just before the Apollo program got under way (http://www.astronautix.com/craft/gemini.htm). This weighed 2 tonnes, and could carry a crew of 2 people. It is definitely quite possible that a re-designed version, using more modern materials and equipment, could fit five people within the 4 tonne weight limit. Such a capsule would also be largely reusable.

Could it be designed for under $24M? Well, personally I think so. It definitely wouldn't be the "easy launch" that we have got used to with SpaceShipOne, but it would win the prize.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Oct 10, 2004 4:40 pm
Hello, Sev,

concerning the degree of the reusability of an orbital spacecraft I have been thinking because SpaceX's vehicle is ponly partialla reusable too.

If I remember right the first stage is reusable and the orbital stage expendable.

The reason may be that the first stage only reaches a velocity allowwing safe return to surface where as the orbital stage has to reach orbital velocity and might have no heat shields and no other protection equipment for reentry.

To make the ornital stage reusable and land safely techniquies, technologies and methods have to be developed not available yet except the heat protection shield of the Space Shuttle which might be considered to be too expensive and working not safe enough.

What's required for the reusability of the orbital stage is - seen from may point of imagination and knowledge a technology to get the orbital stage in space, then decelerate it and send it to surface safe.

This technology (technique etc.) only can be made available if and when first orbit can be reached privately "in principle" - which means "not necessaryly reusable". This is so beacuse without that no such technology can be tested, experimented or installed in orbit.

There have experiences concerning the orbit in general to be won and evaluated.

So reusability of orbial stages might come if the orbit is achieved privately one day.

Possible too might be that some participants of the new competition try to create a SSTO vehicle.

So the reduced requirements of reusability seem to be a wise decision.



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Post    Posted on: Sun Oct 10, 2004 5:27 pm
There's also the fact that there is the X-Prize, and many of the designs are easily scaleable. Armadillo can easily scale up for orbit within the next six years. Even SS1 can. It's a tiny little thing as it is right now. Just to give an idea of how small it is, and thus how easy it is to increase its size and capability, it's about half the size of a WWII P-40 Warhawk (also known as a Kittyhawk and Tomahawk, depending on the theatre).

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Post    Posted on: Sun Oct 10, 2004 9:22 pm
Cadet wrote:
There's also the fact that there is the X-Prize, and many of the designs are easily scaleable. Armadillo can easily scale up for orbit within the next six years. Even SS1 can. It's a tiny little thing as it is right now. Just to give an idea of how small it is, and thus how easy it is to increase its size and capability, it's about half the size of a WWII P-40 Warhawk (also known as a Kittyhawk and Tomahawk, depending on the theatre).


But here's where I disagree - there is a massive difference in what is needed between the X Prize and the ASP. It's just..momentus. Some designs can scale yes - The Canadian Arrow, and Starchasers rockets are two good examples.

John Carmack has already said that he intends to contend for orbital flight, but that he intends to entirely re-develop a new liquid oxygen engine for the purpose. By my book, that is no "scaling up".

And SpaceShipOne is quite simply utterly unsuitable. The design concepts that went behind it (computerised design, focus on safety, composites, low cost, reusability) are definitely good, but the design itself is not. For starters, the specific impulse of the hybrid motor is not realistically good enough to get into orbit with a single stage - so there will need to be another rocket stage added somehow. Also, the increase weight will mean the White Knight would have to be radically re-designed, and I have my doubts about the use of planes for orbital launches anyway (although I have made other different posts on this matter).

And that's without the extra considerations of re-entry, long term exposure to low pressure, and increased launch stresses. There are no X Prize entries which don't need a lot of re-design to suit orbital flight, and many (including SS1 and Armadillo) need almost complete re-design.

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Post    Posted on: Sun Oct 10, 2004 10:44 pm
Sev wrote:
Cadet wrote:
There's also the fact that there is the X-Prize, and many of the designs are easily scaleable. Armadillo can easily scale up for orbit within the next six years. Even SS1 can. It's a tiny little thing as it is right now. Just to give an idea of how small it is, and thus how easy it is to increase its size and capability, it's about half the size of a WWII P-40 Warhawk (also known as a Kittyhawk and Tomahawk, depending on the theatre).


But here's where I disagree - there is a massive difference in what is needed between the X Prize and the ASP. It's just..momentus. Some designs can scale yes - The Canadian Arrow, and Starchasers rockets are two good examples.

John Carmack has already said that he intends to contend for orbital flight, but that he intends to entirely re-develop a new liquid oxygen engine for the purpose. By my book, that is no "scaling up".


It is in my book. He's making it bigger and changing out the engine, not completely redesigning the vehicle.

Quote:
And SpaceShipOne is quite simply utterly unsuitable. The design concepts that went behind it (computerised design, focus on safety, composites, low cost, reusability) are definitely good, but the design itself is not. For starters, the specific impulse of the hybrid motor is not realistically good enough to get into orbit with a single stage - so there will need to be another rocket stage added somehow.


I'm not talking of the SS1 that we have now. I'm talking of a bigger one, stretched to accomidate a larger engine and fuel tank, plus some more cargo. Easily done, especially since the ones being sold to Virgin Galactic will of necessity be bigger (five passengeres instead of two in the X-Prize SS1 if I remember correctly).

Quote:
Also, the increase weight will mean the White Knight would have to be radically re-designed, and I have my doubts about the use of planes for orbital launches anyway (although I have made other different posts on this matter).


The White Knight itself isn't necessary. Some other plane could be used to launch it. Perhaps hitching a ride on NASA's B-52. The Russians still have the An-225 if they really need it :D

Quote:
And that's without the extra considerations of re-entry, long term exposure to low pressure, and increased launch stresses. There are no X Prize entries which don't need a lot of re-design to suit orbital flight, and many (including SS1 and Armadillo) need almost complete re-design.


To be honest, if they didn't incorporate those factors into their original design, just for a margin of safety in the design, they're idiots.

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Post Re: Possible Craft   Posted on: Mon Oct 11, 2004 1:56 am
Sev wrote:
...


I am skeptical that you could keep the total developmental cost under USD $50 million. The cost to develop and test the capsule design, conduct flight tests (you can't expect to fly just twice to win the price; u will need aleast one full scaled unmanned orbital flight) is likely to exceed the prize amount.

While such a vehicle can be built and possibly win the prize, can they do it cheaply enough? How cheap is cheap? Such a vehicle based on the Falcon V is likely to be significantly cheaper than both the STS and the Soyuz but I think we could still be looking at a 7 figure ticket per passenger.


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Post Re: Possible Craft   Posted on: Mon Oct 11, 2004 4:19 am
Sev wrote:
There are currently two "reusable" launch vehicles, the SpaceX Falcon series, and Space Shuttle.


That's not quite correct. There is one "reuseable" vehicle, the Space Shuttle. The Falcon has yet to fly in any form and its final costs and capabilities are far from known.

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Post    Posted on: Mon Oct 11, 2004 6:59 am
Hello, koxinga,

SS1 too required total development costs higher than the prize to be won by it - the prize was 10 mio. dollars, the costs were a liilte less than 30 mio. dollars. That might be a base for estimations partially.

DerekL,

concerning the stated and intended reusability of the Falcon V it's not fully reusable but only partially as I read at SpaceX's website if I remember rught. The first stage is reusable.

But I have to correct my own statements slightly. The passenger capsule of a private spacecraft shot to orbit has to be able to return safely - because of the passengers. The reusability of this capsule may be advantageous depending in its production costs and the production costs of its heat shield.

It will be interesting wether a team will use deceleration engines and rockets. Then this will be a reusable orbital stage up to certain degree.



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Post Re: Possible Craft   Posted on: Mon Oct 11, 2004 4:27 pm
DerekL wrote:
Sev wrote:
There are currently two "reusable" launch vehicles, the SpaceX Falcon series, and Space Shuttle.


That's not quite correct. There is one "reuseable" vehicle, the Space Shuttle. The Falcon has yet to fly in any form and its final costs and capabilities are far from known.


SpaceX has publically stated that the cost for the Falcon V is $13M, plus launch costs. This would make the ticket cost per ticket at around $3M per passenger - so I would agree with koxinga that this is still a bit too high for it really to be available to anyone but the super rich.

Oh, and despite the fact that the Space Shuttle is reusable, it most certainly is not low cost (or even very reliable). It's launch costs per lb are about 5 times that of the Soyuz, and over 10 times that of the SpaceX and Kistler rockets.

As for can current X Prize designs be altered to fit orbital flight, well, we could go on debating for ever, but my bet is no.

Yes, Armadillo Aerospace said that they would only need a "new engine" and enlarging the body and fuel tank of the craft a lot...but if you happen to have been watching the progress on their site, guess what has taken 90% of the time.

That said, their transistion to LOX engines has been quicker than making the monoprop engines, so they may be at an advantage.

Oh, and I'm almost certain that nothing which is descended from SpaceShipOne could fly orbital. Yes, you could use lessons learned during it's production, but the final design would be unrecognisable and substantially different.

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Post    Posted on: Tue Oct 12, 2004 5:39 am
I will have to check wether I remeber right but at SpaceX's website is to read that the 12 mio.$ are the launch costs at least. May be that depreciation is included.

But exactly these launch costs are calculated per flight - not per kg, unit of volume or passenger. A look at the payload capacity is required.

If the payload capacity will be increased costs per kg, unit of volume or passenger are to be expected to decrease due to economies of scale and scope.



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EDIT: I have checked it a few minutes ago - 12 mio $ in fact are the launch costs but they may vary by launch location. And the vehicle is "mostly" reusable as said at their website. The Falcon I has launch costs of 5,9 mio $. They are working on improvements of reliability at least. Falcon V will be able to insert payload into GEO transition orbit and to accelerate 840 kg to escape velocity - according to their website. All this cabalities might contribute to the launch costs. If so this would mean that other can build vehicles having less launch costs.


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Post Re: Possible Craft   Posted on: Tue Oct 12, 2004 2:39 pm
Sev wrote:
The SpaceX Falcon V has a launch capacity of about 4 tonnes into low earth orbit, for a cost of $13M...

The best precedent for a small manned re-entry capsule is the gemini capsules, launched just before the Apollo program got under way (http://www.astronautix.com/craft/gemini.htm). This weighed 2 tonnes, and could carry a crew of 2 people. It is definitely quite possible that a re-designed version, using more modern materials and equipment, could fit five people within the 4 tonne weight limit. Such a capsule would also be largely reusable.


The numbers are a little tighter than what you've indicated, but possibly doable. Pulling data from Astronautix and Spacex.com:

Gemini
Crew Size: 2.
Typical orbit: 246 km circular orbit, 30.2 deg inclination.
Length: 5.67 m. Maximum Diameter: 3.05 m.
Mass: 3,851 kg.
Associated Launch Vehicle: Titan 2


Titan 2 ICBM modified for Gemini:
LEO Payload: 3,600 kg. Apogee: 300 km.
Core Diameter: 3.05 m. (10 ft)
Total Length: 32.80 m.
Mass: 150,530 kg.
Liftoff Thrust: 2,090.00 kN.

Falcon V:
Payload: 200 km, 28 deg 4,200 kg
Core Diameter: 3.4 m (11 ft)
Total Length: 29 m.
Mass: 286,000 lb (129,700 kg)
Liftoff Thrust: 357,500 lb (1,590 kN)


The Falcon V is actually a pretty good match for the Titan 2 used to launch Gemini. It's a very similar size, and can theoretically lift ~600kg more mass to a 200 km orbit. When you consider three more crew (~220 kg in human mass alone), there will have to be some significant weight reductions in the construction of the capsule to account for the needed crew couches, additional life support, etc.

Weight reductions are assuredly possible in the electrical system. The use of composites can reduce the structural weight, and advances in heat shields and environmental systems will likely allow for weight reductions there. However -- it will still be a near thing. Pulling masses from astronautix and making some guesses at where there will be plusses and minues:

Re-Entry Module:
Structure Mass: 638 kg.
Heat Shield Mass: 144 kg.
Navigation Equipment: 63 kg.
Telemetry Equipment: 51 kg.
Electrical Equipment: 126 kg.
Communications Systems: 26 kg.
Crew Seats and Provisions: 426 kg.
Crew mass: 144 kg

Adapter Module:
Structure Mass: 160 kg.

Equipment Module:
Structure Mass: 250 kg.
Telemetry Equipment: 40 kg.
Electrical Equipment: 294 kg.
Environmental Control System: 117 kg.

WAGs made on possible mass changes for a 5-person Gemini capsul:

Structure Mass Total: 1048 --> 746 (-302 kg)
Heat Shield Mass: 144 --> 72 (-72 kg)
Electrical/Electronic: 600 --> 300 (-300 kg)

Crew Seats and Provisions: 426 kg --> 600 (+ 174kg)
Re-Entry module stretch: (+200 kg)
Crew mass: 144 kg -> 360 (+216 kg)
Environmental Control System: 117 kg --> 250 (+133)

3851 kg - 674 kg + 723 kg = 3900 kg

This leaves (presumably) 300kg to spare on the FalconV payload. However -- since the primary mission for this will be to dock with the space station -- additional propellant for the thrusters may well desireable (or required), and that could rapidly eat into the buffer.

There's enough guesses in there that it means nothing, of course. However -- the idea at least seems plausible.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Oct 12, 2004 4:47 pm
Nice post :)

However, despite the numbers being slightly tighter than we might really hope, it seems the limits have just been stretched out again.

SpaceX just announced a modification to their Falcon V launcher, increasing the size and strength of their upper stage. The increases in payload are quite startling:

Code:
Orbit           Payload(new)  Payload(old)
-----           ------------- ------------
200km  28.5 deg 6020 kg       4200 kg
400km  51 deg   5450 kg       3570 kg
700 km sunsync  4780 kg       3000 kg
GTO    9 deg    1920 kg       1250 kg
Escape Velocity 1200 kg       840 kg


So how many extra people can you fit in 1800 kg? :)

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Post    Posted on: Wed Oct 13, 2004 10:48 am
Why do you ask for extra people in the case of escape velocity? I would prefer equipment plus redundants.

The escape velocity capability is providing private travels to the moon perhaps (there has to be a look at the time required to the moon too) - and this interesting under the aspect that such travels already have been discused at this board.

Its a capability beyond the goal of the "America's Space Prize".

I have no idea wether they might be interested in competing for that prize but if they do they might be a favorite. There is an orbital launch scheduled for the current quartal - if it takes place and succeeds their ability to reach the orbit will have been proved. Then they are one step ahead to the prize and only have to grade up to manned vehicles and docking to Nautilus.

A race to the moon might be on already around the time they or another team is going to win the ASP - like the race for the orbit was on before Scaled/Mojave won the XPRIZE.

I am speculating here and the speculation may be far to extended - it's only to search for the perspectives.

Please stress it.



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Post    Posted on: Wed Oct 13, 2004 11:59 am
The new figures from SpaceX is certainly good news. With those figures, it would give a bigger margin to work with that previously which was very tight.

As for escape velocity and moon trips, it is still very early days and would require substantial investments. It would prob require the in-orbit assembly of a 'cruiser' that would be reuse for repeated trips which in other case, require the existence of in-orbit infrastructure.

This cruiser would be effectively a space station when in orbit maintained by a permenant crew. When a trip is arranged, fuel, supplies and passengers would be lifted off Earth. Very early days indeed. One step at a time i guess. We will get there, eventually. May take a while, but we will get there.


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Post    Posted on: Wed Oct 13, 2004 1:29 pm
Sev wrote:
SpaceX just announced a modification to their Falcon V launcher, increasing the size and strength of their upper stage.


Ayup -- with those increases (I saw a preview yesterday on the Space.com forum), a Gemini-style capsule with 5 people (possibly even six) becomes much easier to engineer. In fact it's conceivable to create such a capsule that could range the ISS, which would expand its market enormously. The Soyuz currently puts three people to the station at a cost of (no one knows for sure but the best guesstimate is...) ~$20 million. Depending on the cost and reusability of the capsule -- it might well be feasible to provide a six-person vehicle to the ISS for the same amount -- possibly less.

The Gemini-B http://www.astronautix.com/craft/geminib.htm was an advanced version of the original capsule that was designed for extended storage in space -- like for an escape capsule from a space station. It's still a 2-person craft, but was designed with a docking-port tunnel that allowed access to the station without an EVA.

The "Big Gemini" http://www.astronautix.com/craft/bigemini.htm was an extension even over the Gemini-B, and was designed to carry up to ten passengers (plus pilot and co-pilot) to a space station, plus a significant amount of cargo. However, it's much too large for the FalconV (even with the new specs... ~15,000 kg). It does at least give an example for creating a 'Medium Gemini" that would fit the bill (and the payload capacity) for Bigelow's needs.


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