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There are 35 comments.

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  1. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    Very interesting! I’ve known about both events pretty much all of my life (Chappaquiddick and Apollo 11) but had never realized that they happened at the same time. My mind is blown!

    Just like if you’re the Sec of Defense, and you’re announcing that an audit of pentagon records found more than a $2.3 Trillion missing – make the announcement on Sept, 10 2001. (This meant as a joke – even though it really happened)

    • #1
    • July 18, 2019, at 2:16 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  2. Seawriter Member

    The whole secret dead cosmonauts is Art Bell territory. It was really popular back in the 1960s, but has since been thoroughly debiunked. Two of the best books on the subject are Red Star in Orbit and Uncovering Soviet Disasters, both by James Oberg.

    He also has several articles on his website on the subject at his website http://jamesoberg.com/. Among them is Finding the Deleted Cosmonauts. It is a long read, but a worthwhile one.

    I suspect the US Space program had more astronaut fatalities than the Soviet program in the years 1961-1969 when training accidents are included. Bassett, See, Freeman, and Williams died in T-38 accidents, Micheal Adams died in an X-15 crash, and Robert Lawrence (an MOL) astronaut in an F-104 crash. This excludes the three who died in the 1967 Apollo 1 fire.

    Spaceflight is inherently dangerous.

    • #2
    • July 18, 2019, at 5:08 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    The whole secret dead cosmonauts is Art Bell territory. It was really popular back in the 1960s, but has since been thoroughly debiunked. Two of the best books on the subject are Red Star in Orbit and Uncovering Soviet Disasters, both by James Oberg.

    He also has several articles on his website on the subject at his website http://jamesoberg.com/. Among them is Finding the Deleted Cosmonauts. It is a long read, but a worthwhile one.

    I suspect the US Space program had more astronaut fatalities than the Soviet program in the years 1961-1969 when training accidents are included. Bassett, See, Freeman, and Williams died in T-38 accidents, Micheal Adams died in an X-15 crash, and Robert Lawrence (an MOL) astronaut in an F-104 crash. This excludes the three who died in the 1967 Apollo 1 fire.

    Spaceflight is inherently dangerous.

    Over the entire run of the American program it killed more people. The space shuttle was the most dangerous vehicle to fly.

    • #3
    • July 18, 2019, at 5:14 PM PDT
    • Like
  4. kedavis Member

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    The whole secret dead cosmonauts is Art Bell territory. It was really popular back in the 1960s, but has since been thoroughly debiunked. Two of the best books on the subject are Red Star in Orbit and Uncovering Soviet Disasters, both by James Oberg.

    He also has several articles on his website on the subject at his website http://jamesoberg.com/. Among them is Finding the Deleted Cosmonauts. It is a long read, but a worthwhile one.

    I suspect the US Space program had more astronaut fatalities than the Soviet program in the years 1961-1969 when training accidents are included. Bassett, See, Freeman, and Williams died in T-38 accidents, Micheal Adams died in an X-15 crash, and Robert Lawrence (an MOL) astronaut in an F-104 crash. This excludes the three who died in the 1967 Apollo 1 fire.

    Spaceflight is inherently dangerous.

    Over the entire run of the American program it killed more people. The space shuttle was the most dangerous vehicle to fly.

    That depends on the measurement used. For total number killed, perhaps so. But these things are measured in deaths-per-million-miles-traveled etc. Or even by number of launches. From Mercury through Apollo there were only something like 30 manned launches. (And Apollo 1 never actually launched.) The shuttles flew 140 times, including test flights. And they spent a lot more time in space. By both of those measurements, the shuttles were the safest.

    • #4
    • July 18, 2019, at 7:57 PM PDT
    • Like
  5. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):
    That depends on the measurement used. For total number killed, perhaps so. But these things are measured in deaths-per-million-miles-traveled etc. Or even by number of launches. From Mercury through Apollo there were only something like 30 manned launches. (And Apollo 1 never actually launched.) The shuttles flew 140 times, including test flights. And they spent a lot more time in space. By both of those measurements, the shuttles were the safest.

    The space shuttle flew 135 times across 5 vehicles.

    Measuring orbital flight by miles traveled is disingenuous, because once in orbit, a vehicle coasts and no longer needs to exert energy to fly. So weather it travels 40 000km or 4 000 000 Km is almost not relevant to the wear and tear on the vehicle – provided this distance is just in earth orbit.

    The real dangers in spaceflight is in launch or in re-entry. These are the moments when all lives have been lost in space. One each for the Shuttle, and all Soviet losses have happened in re-entry.

    • #5
    • July 18, 2019, at 10:02 PM PDT
    • Like
  6. kedavis Member

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    That depends on the measurement used. For total number killed, perhaps so. But these things are measured in deaths-per-million-miles-traveled etc. Or even by number of launches. From Mercury through Apollo there were only something like 30 manned launches. (And Apollo 1 never actually launched.) The shuttles flew 140 times, including test flights. And they spent a lot more time in space. By both of those measurements, the shuttles were the safest.

    The space shuttle flew 135 times across 5 vehicles.

    Measuring orbital flight by miles traveled is disingenuous, because once in orbit, a vehicle coasts and no longer needs to exert energy to fly. So weather it travels 40 000km or 4 000 000 Km is almost not relevant to the wear and tear on the vehicle – provided this distance is just in earth orbit.

    The real dangers in spaceflight is in launch or in re-entry. These are the moments when all lives have been lost in space. One each for the Shuttle, and all Soviet losses have happened in re-entry.

    So? The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo vehicles each only flew ONCE. That argues in favor of the shuttles, not against.

    • #6
    • July 18, 2019, at 11:00 PM PDT
    • Like
  7. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):
    That depends on the measurement used. For total number killed, perhaps so. But these things are measured in deaths-per-million-miles-traveled etc. Or even by number of launches. From Mercury through Apollo there were only something like 30 manned launches. (And Apollo 1 never actually launched.) The shuttles flew 140 times, including test flights. And they spent a lot more time in space. By both of those measurements, the shuttles were the safest.

    The space shuttle flew 135 times across 5 vehicles.

    Measuring orbital flight by miles traveled is disingenuous, because once in orbit, a vehicle coasts and no longer needs to exert energy to fly. So weather it travels 40 000km or 4 000 000 Km is almost not relevant to the wear and tear on the vehicle – provided this distance is just in earth orbit.

    The real dangers in spaceflight is in launch or in re-entry. These are the moments when all lives have been lost in space. One each for the Shuttle, and all Soviet losses have happened in re-entry.

    So? The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo vehicles each only flew ONCE. That argues in favor of the shuttles, not against.

    The Gemini 2 capsule flew twice. Once as part of Gemini, and then again in Gemini-B – MOL program.

    There are many design flaws in the space shuttle mostly caused by design compromises driven by budgetary constraints imposed by congress. The real problem with the shuttle is its size, its simply too big and too heavy to be a useful launch vehicle for manned space flight. As it would be stuck in Low Earth Orbit for its entire life.

    The new generation of capsules are re-usable and will be more capable – getting more astronauts into deeper space, to do real science and push some real boundaries.

    • #7
    • July 18, 2019, at 11:57 PM PDT
    • Like
  8. kedavis Member

    The shuttles were far from perfect, but they did represent a step – several steps, really – of advancement, and were certainly not the most dangerous space vehicle except just by raw number which is totally improper given the numbers of launches etc. And little details such as, if a Mercury mission/capsule fails, only one person could POSSIBLY die. Because it only CARRIED one! Gemini only carried TWO! Apollo only carried THREE! In over 100 flights, carrying SEVERAL TIMES the number of people EACH TIME, the aggregate number of shuttle deaths per flight, per person “at risk,” is far less.

    • #8
    • July 19, 2019, at 1:46 AM PDT
    • Like
  9. Seawriter Member

    Gentlemen:

    Get my book on the Shuttle. It goes into the design compromises and why they were made.

    Probably the most dangerous manned launch system ever was the Mercury Atlas, followed by Gemini-Titan. The Atlas required the rocket to be fueled to have structural integrity. The GT-II had poisonous fuel which ignited when the oxidizer came in contact with the fuel (mono-methyl-hydrazine and red fuming nitric acid as I recall). Several Titan-III (with the same core booster) exploded on launch. Cars downwind of the launch pad had to be repainted afterwards because the fuel/oxidizer stripped the paint.

    The Soviet R-7 (still used today) was reliable and safe. So was the Saturn-Ib. The most dangerous Soviet manned launch vehicle was the Proton (fuel again) but while built for Soviet manned Moon missions it was never used for manned missions because it was viewed as less safe than the R-7.

    • #9
    • July 19, 2019, at 6:12 AM PDT
    • Like
  10. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The shuttles were far from perfect, but they did represent a step – several steps, really – of advancement, and were certainly not the most dangerous space vehicle except just by raw number which is totally improper given the numbers of launches etc. And little details such as, if a Mercury mission/capsule fails, only one person could POSSIBLY die. Because it only CARRIED one! Gemini only carried TWO! Apollo only carried THREE! In over 100 flights, carrying SEVERAL TIMES the number of people EACH TIME, the aggregate number of shuttle deaths per flight, per person “at risk,” is far less.

    No, the shuttle was more dangerous than capsule designs in that it used the Solid Rocket Boosters that could fail catastrophically, as demonstrated. Because there was no method to evacuate the crew during a launch failure. For the dozens of flaws that went undetected during the design and operation of the shuttle fleet – the most complex machine ever built.

    Because it carried more people than earlier launchers – it should have been made more safe than other launchers, not less.

    • #10
    • July 19, 2019, at 8:56 AM PDT
    • Like
  11. kedavis Member

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The shuttles were far from perfect, but they did represent a step – several steps, really – of advancement, and were certainly not the most dangerous space vehicle except just by raw number which is totally improper given the numbers of launches etc. And little details such as, if a Mercury mission/capsule fails, only one person could POSSIBLY die. Because it only CARRIED one! Gemini only carried TWO! Apollo only carried THREE! In over 100 flights, carrying SEVERAL TIMES the number of people EACH TIME, the aggregate number of shuttle deaths per flight, per person “at risk,” is far less.

    No, the shuttle was more dangerous than capsule designs in that it used the Solid Rocket Boosters that could fail catastrophically, as demonstrated. Because there was no method to evacuate the crew during a launch failure. For the dozens of flaws that went undetected during the design and operation of the shuttle fleet – the most complex machine ever built.

    Because it carried more people than earlier launchers – it should have been made more safe than other launchers, not less.

    The solid boosters really only failed because it was too cold when they launched.

    I always thought – and from what I’ve read, the engineers mostly agreed – the launch-escape things on Mercury/Gemini/Apollo sounded better than it would have worked if ever really needed/tried. Also the shuttle did have that “emergency exit” thing which was never used.

    • #11
    • July 19, 2019, at 9:52 AM PDT
    • Like
  12. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The shuttles were far from perfect, but they did represent a step – several steps, really – of advancement, and were certainly not the most dangerous space vehicle except just by raw number which is totally improper given the numbers of launches etc. And little details such as, if a Mercury mission/capsule fails, only one person could POSSIBLY die. Because it only CARRIED one! Gemini only carried TWO! Apollo only carried THREE! In over 100 flights, carrying SEVERAL TIMES the number of people EACH TIME, the aggregate number of shuttle deaths per flight, per person “at risk,” is far less.

    No, the shuttle was more dangerous than capsule designs in that it used the Solid Rocket Boosters that could fail catastrophically, as demonstrated. Because there was no method to evacuate the crew during a launch failure. For the dozens of flaws that went undetected during the design and operation of the shuttle fleet – the most complex machine ever built.

    Because it carried more people than earlier launchers – it should have been made more safe than other launchers, not less.

    The solid boosters really only failed because it was too cold when they launched.

    I always thought – and from what I’ve read, the engineers mostly agreed – the launch-escape things on Mercury/Gemini/Apollo sounded better than it would have worked if ever really needed/tried. Also the shuttle did have that “emergency exit” thing which was never used.

    The Shuttle had ejection seats on the first few flights only. They where removed to save weight. (and only 2) The boosters only failed when it was cold – in flight. There have been numerous test failures (which is why they test) even to this day, a re-designed booster intended for SLS failed in test.

    Solid rocket boosters because of their inherent inability to be fully tested should not be used in manned spaceflight at all.

    Originally the shuttle was intended to fly with the Saturn V first stage. I think that would have been far safer than the system that flew. Certainly more environmentally friendly.

    • #12
    • July 19, 2019, at 10:07 AM PDT
    • Like
  13. kedavis Member

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The solid boosters really only failed because it was too cold when they launched.

    I always thought – and from what I’ve read, the engineers mostly agreed – the launch-escape things on Mercury/Gemini/Apollo sounded better than it would have worked if ever really needed/tried. Also the shuttle did have that “emergency exit” thing which was never used.

    The Shuttle had ejection seats on the first few flights only. They where removed to save weight. (and only 2) The boosters only failed when it was cold – in flight. There have been numerous test failures (which is why they test) even to this day, a re-designed booster intended for SLS failed in test.

    Solid rocket boosters because of their inherent inability to be fully tested should not be used in manned spaceflight at all.

    Originally the shuttle was intended to fly with the Saturn V first stage. I think that would have been far safer than the system that flew. Certainly more environmentally friendly.

    I was referring to the Inflight Crew Escape System (ICES) which was added after Challenger.

    Also, the Saturn V first stage was, to coin a phrase, “Yuge!” Do you mean the S-IB?

    I’m not so sanguine about testing a liquid-fueled rocket engine on the ground and then firing it up again for launch. It’s bound to have “used up” some of its lifetime in the course of testing.

    • #13
    • July 19, 2019, at 10:55 AM PDT
    • Like
  14. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The solid boosters really only failed because it was too cold when they launched.

    I always thought – and from what I’ve read, the engineers mostly agreed – the launch-escape things on Mercury/Gemini/Apollo sounded better than it would have worked if ever really needed/tried. Also the shuttle did have that “emergency exit” thing which was never used.

    The Shuttle had ejection seats on the first few flights only. They where removed to save weight. (and only 2) The boosters only failed when it was cold – in flight. There have been numerous test failures (which is why they test) even to this day, a re-designed booster intended for SLS failed in test.

    Solid rocket boosters because of their inherent inability to be fully tested should not be used in manned spaceflight at all.

    Originally the shuttle was intended to fly with the Saturn V first stage. I think that would have been far safer than the system that flew. Certainly more environmentally friendly.

    I was referring to the Inflight Crew Escape System (ICES) which was added after Challenger.

    Also, the Saturn V first stage was, to coin a phrase, “Yuge!” Do you mean the S-IB?

    I’m not so sanguine about testing a liquid-fueled rocket engine on the ground and then firing it up again for launch. It’s bound to have “used up” some of its lifetime in the course of testing.

    The Saturn V first stage is the only rocket large enough to lift the shuttle off the ground. The shuttle did weigh nearly 100 tones.

    A liquid fired engine can be reconditioned if required, the entire in flight life of a rocket engine is less than 5 minutes. (the first stage of the Saturn V for example, only burned for 2.5 minutes) I think that for the $20 million plus price that most of these engines carry, they could be built to work a little longer.

    • #14
    • July 19, 2019, at 11:11 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. kedavis Member

    Yes, the main shuttle “orbiter” weighed up to maybe a little over 100 tons, for launch. But that included the main engines which lifted/powered it into orbit, albeit mostly fueled from the external tank and with the solid boosters to get started. However, the complete Saturn V weighed over 3,000 tons, and the first stage produced almost 4,000 tons of thrust. That still seems like a lot of overkill to me, for the shuttle.

    The second stage produced almost 600 tons of thrust, but with its own weight -mostly fuel – and the weight of a shuttle “orbiter” added to it, might not have been able to lift off from a standing start. However it might have worked with less fuel carried, if it wasn’t necessary to carry so much fuel to lift the “orbiter.”

    • #15
    • July 19, 2019, at 1:59 PM PDT
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  16. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Yes, the main shuttle “orbiter” weighed up to maybe a little over 100 tons, for launch. But that included the main engines which lifted/powered it into orbit, albeit mostly fueled from the external tank and with the solid boosters to get started. However, the complete Saturn V weighed over 3,000 tons, and the first stage produced almost 4,000 tons of thrust. That still seems like a lot of overkill to me, for the shuttle.

    The second stage produced almost 600 tons of thrust, but with its own weight -mostly fuel – and the weight of a shuttle “orbiter” added to it, might not have been able to lift off from a standing start. However it might have worked with less fuel carried, if it wasn’t necessary to carry so much fuel to lift the “orbiter.”

    If you look at the launch stack of the space shuttle, it also produces about 7.5 million pounds of thrust at launch.90% of the thrust is provided by the SRBs, the shuttle main engines which only throttle up to full power after the MaxQ (maximum aerodynamic pressure) about 90 seconds into the flight.

    The Saturn V is the only other rocket that could have produced that much thrust. Here is a photo of a model of an early design concept:

    Photo is from Wikipedia Saturn Shuttle design.

     

    • #16
    • July 19, 2019, at 2:43 PM PDT
    • Like
  17. kedavis Member

    Yes but I was talking about just the orbiter. The external fuel tank and the SRBs weigh a lot more, but you wouldn’t need a Saturn V first-stage booster to lift all of that too. Just the orbiter. If you use a Saturn V first (and maybe second) stage, the SRBs and external fuel tank wouldn’t be needed. They are replaced by the Saturn, not in addition to.

    • #17
    • July 19, 2019, at 4:12 PM PDT
    • Like
  18. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Yes but I was talking about just the orbiter. The external fuel tank and the SRBs weigh a lot more, but you wouldn’t need a Saturn V first-stage booster to lift all of that too. Just the orbiter. If you use a Saturn V first (and maybe second) stage, the SRBs and external fuel tank wouldn’t be needed. They are replaced by the Saturn, not in addition to.

    I like that idea, more like the Buran, which was lifted as complete dead weight, and did not have large (and heavy engines at all). But the design proposal was only to use an extended version of the Saturn V first stage only. The shuttle’s engines would act as the second stage and lift itself the rest of the way to orbit, dropping the external tank when the engines shut down.

    Yes, but there is still the 100 tones to get into orbit – even if we cut out the engines, plumbing and supports we’re still talking a 75+ ton vehicle, still 15 times heavier than any previous manned vehicle.

     

    • #18
    • July 19, 2019, at 5:07 PM PDT
    • Like
  19. kedavis Member

    Sure, but that seems mostly because all the previous manned vehicles were so SMALL. Basically just a crew capsule, really. For the longer-lasting Apollo missions I suppose the Service Module should be included, since it carried the larger oxygen supply.

    The shuttle orbiter might still need the main engines and the internal fuel supply, but most of the weight of any full assembly like that is still the launching fuel. At least until someone invents some kind of Star Trek power systems that can work from a nuclear power source. And I don’t mean the warp drive, just “impulse” would do for now. When you think about it, most of the fuel is used for lifting the rest of the fuel! (For the Saturn 5 first stage, the “dry” weight which includes the engines and all the fuel tank STRUCTURE, is less than 150 tons. With fuel it’s over 2,500 tons! The second stage is less than 50 tons dry, about 550 tons with fuel.) For the shuttle/orbiter, most of that fuel is in the external tank. But that’s why lifting just the orbiter isn’t nearly as big of a job: if something else is doing that, the external fuel tank and all its weight of fuel, doesn’t need to go along. Neither do the SRBs, which are mostly needed to get the external fuel tank off the ground.

    • #19
    • July 20, 2019, at 1:09 AM PDT
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  20. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Sure, but that seems mostly because all the previous manned vehicles were so SMALL. Basically just a crew capsule, really. For the longer-lasting Apollo missions I suppose the Service Module should be included, since it carried the larger oxygen supply.

    The shuttle orbiter might still need the main engines and the internal fuel supply, but most of the weight of any full assembly like that is still the launching fuel. At least until someone invents some kind of Star Trek power systems that can work from a nuclear power source. And I don’t mean the warp drive, just “impulse” would do for now. When you think about it, most of the fuel is used for lifting the rest of the fuel! (For the Saturn 5 first stage, the “dry” weight which includes the engines and all the fuel tank STRUCTURE, is less than 150 tons. With fuel it’s over 2,500 tons! The second stage is less than 50 tons dry, about 550 tons with fuel.) For the shuttle/orbiter, most of that fuel is in the external tank. But that’s why lifting just the orbiter isn’t nearly as big of a job: if something else is doing that, the external fuel tank and all its weight of fuel, doesn’t need to go along. Neither do the SRBs, which are mostly needed to get the external fuel tank off the ground.

    Its true, the weight of fuel is a major consideration, but the crux of the problem is how to get a 100 ton space plane into orbit or a 3 man crew to the moon. Here is a list of Launchers that can put 100 tones into low earth orbit:

    Saturn V (128t) -retired

    N1 (95t) – if you dont mind being a little scrambled, and extra crispy.

    Energia (100t) – retired

    Space Shuttle (122.5t) -retired

    SLS 1B (105t) – imaginary

    “Impulse drive” has already been invented – all rockets are “Impulse drive” but the star trek variety is a plasma being ejected out through a magnetic nozzle powered by a fusion reactor. Not sure that would be environmentally friendly for atmospheric operation.

     

    • #20
    • July 20, 2019, at 8:46 PM PDT
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  21. kedavis Member

    The plasma is basically just a super-heated gas, it’s not radioactive. A simpler version of that was experimented with years ago, called NERVA. I was reading everything I could find about NERVA in the 60s and 70s, sadly it didn’t get further development.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NERVA

    A combination of NERVA with something like the Delta Clipper project could have been pretty amazing.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_Douglas_DC-X

    • #21
    • July 20, 2019, at 11:28 PM PDT
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  22. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The plasma is basically just a super-heated gas, it’s not radioactive. A simpler version of that was experimented with years ago, called NERVA. I was reading everything I could find about NERVA in the 60s and 70s, sadly it didn’t get further development.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NERVA

    A combination of NERVA with something like the Delta Clipper project could have been pretty amazing.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_Douglas_DC-X

    NERVA was not the only nuclear rocket. There was also project ROVER as well. I believe a recent NASA budgets have had funds for nuclear rockets as well, but I havent heard of any fresh studies or papers being published as a result yet.

    I don’t think a nuclear rocket would pass environmental muster for atmospheric operation. You are after all passing the thrusting gas through the core of a nuclear reactor – and I can imagine that being a problem. My favorite nuclear rocket, uses a gas reactor core – using U6F (uranium hexafluoride) that can be magnetically constricted to reach criticality. These type of reactors can hit temperatures of 25 000 c. the working gas (I would prefer helium to hydrogen for deep space missions or frankly, methane) would have quite a violent reaction if suddenly heated in this core.

    The DCX was an interesting technology gamble, that was a real spark of life for NASA. Its too bad the gamble didnt pan out a little better (or rather the funding over site held their nerve a little longer) even thought the technologies where too much to tackle in one project, it was the first sign of guts at the agency in 25 years, and wish they’d broken the project down a little to allow for multiple paths to success.

    Insisting that the fuels by hydrogen and oxygen, pretty much doomed the fuel tanks because the carbon fiber would break down at the low temperatures of hydrogen – but could have worked with methane. Or they could have switched to newer aluminum alloys – which where ironically lighter than the carbon fiber tanks they where trying to develop.

    It may also be that a Single stage vehicle to orbit just isnt possible, because of – well many reasons, but mostly the tyranny of the rocket equation. SSTO maybe cant work solely as a rocket engine.

    I was very interested an experimental Soviet ballistic missile that used an air-assisted rocket engine. It used air as its oxidizer for its first 90 seconds of flight or so – really helped cheat the rocket equation and gave the engine an ISP in the 1500 to 2000 range. Low for a jet but freaking miraculous for a rocket. 

     

    • #22
    • July 21, 2019, at 8:14 PM PDT
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  23. kedavis Member

    The reactor super-heats the (liquid at first) gas, but that doesn’t mean it necessarily becomes radioactive. In rockets like that, the liquid hydrogen (or methane or whatever) isn’t really fuel, it’s just reaction mass. And it could even be water for that matter, super-heated to produce a steam rocket. (Some of A. Bertram Chander’s books/stories included such a system mostly for emergency use – maybe because it allowed for using the regular water supply for the crew, as a “rocket” if necessary. The reactor would already be there too, for other power needs.) The difficulty remains of dealing with Earth gravity, though. NERVA was also seen as an already-in-space type of propulsion, because of the weight of reactor shielding, etc.

    • #23
    • July 21, 2019, at 10:01 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The reactor super-heats the (liquid at first) gas, but that doesn’t mean it necessarily becomes radioactive. In rockets like that, the liquid hydrogen (or methane or whatever) isn’t really fuel, it’s just reaction mass. And it could even be water for that matter, super-heated to produce a steam rocket. (Some of A. Bertram Chander’s books/stories included such a system mostly for emergency use – maybe because it allowed for using the regular water supply for the crew, as a “rocket” if necessary. The reactor would already be there too, for other power needs.) The difficulty remains of dealing with Earth gravity, though. NERVA was also seen as an already-in-space type of propulsion, because of the weight of reactor shielding, etc.

    No, the gas or thrust plume (?) wouldn’t necessarily become radioactive, in normal operations but in the case of an accident there could be a release of radioactive debris. I think the safety issues are enough to keep such an engine from operating in the atmosphere. The radio active material could be stored in a vault for launch – before being moved out into the reactor chamber before the engine is ready for use. In a 3rd or 4th stage as an escape kick cage, to Mars or even the moon.

    Shielding wouldn’t be much of an issue – you would use distance, and the fuel tanks, as well as the supplies for the mission as shielding – instead of lugging along material specifically for shielding, you’d use the mass you need to bring along as shielding. You’d also fly with this mass facing the sun to help shield from solar flares as well.

    The most exciting thing about a nuclear engine powered stage, is the extreme boost in efficiency. Even using the technology of the 1960s, project Rover and NERVA both suggested that such engines could have ISPs nearly double that of hydrogen fueled engines. OR an isp if around 1000 or so. that would allow mars missions to be easily double in size, to have much greater variety of experiments, to be much more robust.

    • #24
    • July 21, 2019, at 11:41 PM PDT
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  25. kedavis Member

    Yes of course, that was one of the obvious principles behind “2001”‘s (the movie) “Discovery.” Although coming back to Earth, you don’t have the benefit of the solar shielding, especially if you’re mostly using distance. And you still have the problem of getting stuff up there to start with. That kind of work is going to involve something more like the space shuttle, not a bunch of Apollo launches.

    One of the colony-ship proposals using the Orion propulsion method – continuous rapid-fire nuclear explosions behind a large “pusher” shield – was to make the shield so that by the time they arrive at the destination, it has itself been turned into “nuclear fuel” (probably plutonium, I think) which then fuels the power plant for the new colony.

    • #25
    • July 22, 2019, at 2:52 AM PDT
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  26. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Yes of course, that was one of the obvious principles behind “2001”‘s (the movie) “Discovery.” Although coming back to Earth, you don’t have the benefit of the solar shielding, especially if you’re mostly using distance. And you still have the problem of getting stuff up there to start with. That kind of work is going to involve something more like the space shuttle, not a bunch of Apollo launches.

    One of the colony-ship proposals using the Orion propulsion method – continuous rapid-fire nuclear explosions behind a large “pusher” shield – was to make the shield so that by the time they arrive at the destination, it has itself been turned into “nuclear fuel” (probably plutonium, I think) which then fuels the power plant for the new colony.

    I never cared much for the proposition of bombing your star ship to another solar system. It just seemed very wasteful. I would rather keep the fuel in a thermal nuclear rocket as we discussed earlier or power some form of ion thrusters. If you’re able to maintain 1 G of acceleration, you could simulate gravity by having the direction of thrust be in sync with your floor plan. Being in interstellar space you’ll need some form of nuclear energy anyway – its not like you can use solar power too far beyond Mars.

    It depends on the stuff, but I think its backwards, a few Saturn V launches vs a bunch of shuttle launches. Had the Saturn V still been around, the entire mass of the ISS could have been launched on 3 or 4 missions. Instead of the 35-ish space shuttle flights, 4 Russian launches and 2 spacex flights, 40 + flights? The launch costs far exceed the cost of the actual materials and engineering of the ISS.

    • #26
    • July 22, 2019, at 8:12 PM PDT
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  27. kedavis Member

    The Saturn V can lift about 150 tons to low Earth orbit of about 90 miles, but the International Space Station is at about 250 miles. The shuttle can lift about 60% of its LEO capacity to the ISS, it seems reasonable that the share for a Saturn V would be about the same. So about 90 tons. The ISS weighs about 500 tons in total, so it would take about 6 of the Saturn V to get just the material up there. But the shuttle could also take the crew members, taking some up and bringing others back, etc etc. If the Saturn launches were just taking material up, something else like the shuttle would still be needed for the people.

    Also remember, each Saturn V launch, in current dollars, would run about $1.5 billion. Which could be more than triple what a shuttle launch cost.

    And it took the shuttle to deal with Hubble and other things.

    • #27
    • July 22, 2019, at 9:23 PM PDT
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  28. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    kedavis (View Comment):

    The Saturn V can lift about 150 tons to low Earth orbit of about 90 miles, but the International Space Station is at about 250 miles. The shuttle can lift about 60% of its LEO capacity to the ISS, it seems reasonable that the share for a Saturn V would be about the same. So about 90 tons. The ISS weighs about 500 tons in total, so it would take about 6 of the Saturn V to get just the material up there. But the shuttle could also take the crew members, taking some up and bringing others back, etc etc. If the Saturn launches were just taking material up, something else like the shuttle would still be needed for the people.

    Also remember, each Saturn V launch, in current dollars, would run about $1.5 billion. Which could be more than triple what a shuttle launch cost.

    And it took the shuttle to deal with Hubble and other things.

    Skylab was in an orbit of 296×275 miles. Granted you would loose some mass going to the higher inclination for the Russians. Skylab weighed in at almost 80 tones. Also we’re discussing how the Saturn V was, if it was to keep flying, I think it would have been improved. There were many design studies like the Saturn V Int-21, which improved thrust up to 8.7 million pounds.

    Costs. The shuttle program is notorious for its bad accounting. I dont think they’re cheaper than a Saturn V launch. The Saturn V accounted in at $185 million (1965 dollars) or $1.1 Billion in 2016 dollars. I have seen GAO studies that put shuttle launches as expensive as $1.5 Billion – in the mid 90s. Purely on cost, I think the Saturn V is the bargain.

    What could have been wasnt. What should have been wasnt. Here we are in a place that nobody in 1970 would have predicted. A nasa with nada. No effective manned spaceflight program, no effective manned exploration program – No moon landings, no mars program… They should changed NASA’s logo – NADA… big fat zero.

    • #28
    • July 22, 2019, at 9:51 PM PDT
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  29. kedavis Member

    The “Space Race” was definitely a big part of why the 1960s space program was “damn the torpedoes (to the budget), full speed ahead/up!” Maybe a current “crisis” such as China making big inroads into space, would stir things up again. But I suspect there are too many people who think everything should be spent on giving them “free” college and “free” medical, totally ignoring the adage “if you think <insert pet issue> is expensive now, wait until you see how much it costs when it’s ‘free!'”

    https://townhall.com/political-cartoons/lisabenson/2019/06/25/166420

    • #29
    • July 23, 2019, at 2:12 AM PDT
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  30. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    Yes, the space race will never be duplicated. I tend to agree with this analysis of the space race, and its aftermath on NASA:

    I would like NASA to have a stable development program, without the interference of congress, with a schedule, a budget and a destination. Just like Apollo – but it doesnt have to be a breakneck schedule, or a stupendous budget. Just lets get to mars in 12 years, and lets allocated a budget of $X per year to do that.

    IF NASA where given the opportunity to re-assert itself, I think its nerdly culture would flourish. I cant help but imagine, that it must be the most soul crushing place in the world for an engineer or scientist to work. Imagine how enthused you would be you’re first weeks or even year on the job. But then as you grind into it, you find you’re filling out more TPS reports, find out you have 4 bosses, and the goal of your day is just to be left alone.

     

    • #30
    • July 23, 2019, at 8:01 PM PDT
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