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2005: A Space Odyssey

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Wed Jan 12, 2005 4:44 pm
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hobbyspace.com by Clark S. Lindsey: Buzz Aldrin and Taylor Dinerman, who has a regular column in the Space Review, have an opinion piece today in the Wall Street Journal: 2005: A Space Odyssey by – WSJ.com – Jan.11.05 (subscription required). They advocate that NASA take advantage of the development of space tourism vehicles for the CEV.

They point out that though there is a big hurdle to jump from suborbital operations to orbit, “Mr. Rutan, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, might, if they move one stage at a time, develop a craft that could actually reach orbit.” They go on to say:

The embryonic space-tourism industry gives NASA new alternatives for spacecraft development. Future versions of SS1, or a Multipurpose Crew Module, could be the basis for a versatile yet low-cost NASA CEV. One version could carry six to eight astronauts from Earth into orbit. This could fulfill all personnel transport roles of the CEV and could even be used on the Moon itself, as the crew compartment of a manned Lunar rover. These vehicles would share the same pressurized shell, similar life-support systems, and a standardized docking mechanism and attachment points for attitude control and propulsion thrusters. Most important, they’d all be built on the same production line.

If it is to succeed, evolved versions of this craft will remain in production for 40 or 50 years. If NASA and industry can get the design right today, the payoff over the life of the program will be huge. On the other hand, any mistakes made in the early phase will lead to delays and increased costs that could cripple future exploration missions. Relatively small entrepreneurs might be able to do the work faster, and at less cost, than the aerospace giants, but they’d need a less bureaucratic contracting system than the one that exists today.

This is, of course, music to my ears. We can hope that NASA will be more amenable to taking advantage of privately developed hardware than it was in the 1980s when it actively discouraged suggestions that it use the al Space Facility, a low cost space station developed by a company led by Max Faget.

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