NASA gets back into manned spaceflight

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by billvon, Sep 17, 2014.

  1. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    19,312
    Good news!
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    NASA awards space taxi contract to Boeing and SpaceX

    By James Rogers
    Published September 16, 2014

    NASA has awarded the highly-anticipated space taxi contract to Boeing and SpaceX, a move which will end the agency’s reliance on Russian technology to transport U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station.

    The Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract aims to restore an American capability to launch astronauts from U.S. soil to the International Space Station by the end of 2017. Since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, American astronauts have been transported to space on Russian-built Soyuz vessels.

    "We know that going to space is hard," said Kathy Lueders, NASA's Commercial Crew program manager, during a press conference at Kennedy Space Center. "NASA and aerospace industry have accomplished hard things in the past."

    In addition to SpaceX and Boeing, Sierra Nevada and Blue Origin were all in the running for the $6.8 billion contract.

    During the press conference, Lueders explained that NASA's deals with Boeing and SpaceX are worth $4.2 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively. "There's a maximum of 6 missions under that contract value," she added.

    Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft, which recently completed its critical design review of integrated systems, was at the core of the company’s bid. SpaceX's Dragon craft led its bid.
    http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/09/16/nasa-awards-space-taxi-contract/
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  3. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

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    How the hell does that work... SpaceX has a proven, reliable design that's been to the ISS several times...

    Boeing... shit, have they even BUILT the thing yet?
     
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  5. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    Well, they have the Atlas V - but no spacecraft as you mention.
     
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  7. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    Boeing has a 50% stake in manufacturing the Atlas V, I guess. Lockheed-Martin is the other half of the 'United Launch Alliance'.

    Interestingly, the Atlas V still isn't man-rated, as far as I know. Apparently they didn't even start the process of doing that until after the Space Shuttles were finally scrapped, and it's an inexplicably slow process.

    Also interesting, the Atlas III and V depend on imported Russian-made rocket engines for their first stage. Reportedly (according to a recent story I read in Aviation Week) we only have a relatively small stock of these engines on hand here in the States. So the Russians have been hinting that if the US gets too enthusiastic about enacting economic sanctions against Russia, they might forbid the sale of any more RD-180s to the US. (The military and intelligence agencies are worried about this, since the Atlas lofts many military and intelligence satellites.)

    One of the significant advantages of the Space-X Falcon in the Pentagon's eyes is the fact that it uses American-made Merlin engines.
     
  8. Kittamaru Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Adieu, Sciforums. Valued Senior Member

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    I don't know why we are even CONSIDERING a reliance on Russian-made tech... are we seriously incapable of reverse-engineering the damned thing?
     
  9. Walter L. Wagner Cosmic Truth Seeker Valued Senior Member

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    This is only stop-gap, as NASA is also doing another heavy-lift rocket (using off-the-shelf booster-rockets strapped to the rocket, and off-the-shelf shuttle engines (3) for the rocket proper).

    This was covered in a previous thread.
     
  10. Russ_Watters Not a Trump supporter... Valued Senior Member

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    Such decisions have nothing to do with technology; they are about politics and money.
     
  11. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    5,451
    My guess is that the Russian engines offer comparable thrust and reliability compared to American engines, at significantly lower cost.

    That reminds me of a story that Space-X's Elon Musk told about the wonders of the American space industry. It seems that Space-X needed some high-tech rocket fuel flow valves. So they went to a major subcontractor who designs and manufactures similar valves for the military and NASA, and told them that Space-X needed the valves in a relatively short period of time and at some given price or below. The manufacturer's lip curled into a sneer and the response was 'Good luck with that'.

    So several months went by and a call came from the manufacturer's rep. 'How are you doing on those valves?', he asked. Space-X said that it was all taken care of. 'What do you mean?' So Space-X explained that their engineers had designed them in-house and the company was already manufacturing them for itself. 'Oh...'

    As Musk told it, it seems that the American aerospace contractors have created their whole corporate cultures around government contracts, at a time when getting spy satellites and similar things into orbit reliably was paramount and the Pentagon was willing to pay however much it took. So everything ended up totally over-engineered and appallingly over-priced.

    (Perhaps that helps explain how the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (originally the "low-cost" alternative to the already hugely overpriced F-22 Raptor) somehow turned into a monster: the most complex and costliest aircraft program in the history of aviation.)

    Anyway, shaking up that culture is apparently one of the things that inspired Elon Musk to start Space-X.

    (And Musk's actually kind of polite and soft-spoken talking about it. You should hear Burt Rutan on the same subject!)
     
  12. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    That is very interesting and certainly sounds plausible. Defence contracts are notorious for being unconcerned with cost and often including an element of pork barrel politics, whereas purely commercial contracts are far more focused on the job in hand. All power to Musk's elbow! And I'm sure you are right also about the rationale for buying in Russian engines: I'm sure they are - or were - a bargain. But if Putin cuts off the supply it won't be long before US-made engines replace them. And that will be yet another economic own-goal for Putin.
     
  13. Mr. G reality.sys Valued Senior Member

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    5,110
    We have a competition: Government heavy vs. Capitalist lite

    Graft vs profit.
     
  14. DwayneD.L.Rabon Registered Senior Member

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    Well, I think that distant spaceflight travel is out of reach for NASA and any other agency, the type of technology required is just not in production or on the drawing board for the major agencies, clearly any manned spaceflight to mars or such a distance is the event of human beings living completely by the action of a lever, as opposed to near earth and moon space flight which allows biochemical stability and formation within a normal range of balance where humans can manage features such as pressure and temperature, static charge and otherwise. More distant space travel becomes more complexed with a wide range of irregularities and humans need stable chemistry for periods of time when they are faced with periods of chemical irregularities to organize the toxic chemicals that build up. so a environment that offers constant chemical irregularities is out of reach until the technology and equipment allow humans to be chemically stable by the use of a lever 100 percent of the time.
    It would be nice to see a new space craft that would allow humans to advance in near earth space travel, such as collecting data on human performance across the distances of the moon, perhaps testing the effects on humans per mile of altitude unto the reaching the moon, you know some foundation data collection that would serve humans even 1,000 years from now. securing actual foot ground for future generations.(Blue print data).

    Even so I still think that some of these satellites produced should have been massed produced in the 1,000's and sent all over the solar system if NASA and other space agencies where actually serious about securing the future. so i think also that such advertisements are public ploys or something, i have yet to see a serious logical approach to handle the issue of human advancement into space, maybe its all miliatary and rich people secret luxury life experence, you know the house in the heavens is only for a few and will only be for a few even at the day the earth ends, or something like that.

    simply put alot more should have been done by now, and they are not giving us any exsplaination as to why it not in order, perhaps the aliens are in control.

    Dwayne D.L.Rabon
     
  15. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

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    27,534


    I quite agree a lot more should have been done by now, and a lot more would have been done by now [like we should already have a permanent Moon base and have conducted a manned Mars mission] except for those two horrible variables of politics and economics.
    We as yet though have no evidence at all to support your silly hypothesis of Aliens being in control.
    We will get there though, and even further afield to the stars in the course of time.
    Man was not meant to stagnate on this fart arse little blue orb.
     
  16. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    You mean Man was meant to boldly go - even at the cost of splitting the infinitive - where no man has gone before?

    I sort of tend to agree, but am conscious that I was brought on a diet of optimistic sci-fi in the 1960s. My previous optimism is tempered these days by Slartibartfast's dictum that, "In space travel, the numbers are awful".
     
  17. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    Hanlon's Corollary - Do not ascribe to aliens what simple neglect can explain.
     
  18. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    Well, we've always boldly gone wherever there was something worth stealing from the people who had boldly gone there before us.

    The difference is that we didn't have to invent the technology to go there. What Columbus, Cook, et al. did was the equivalent of flying a Cessna to Mars.
     
  19. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    Not at all. A Cessna (say a 172) is ancient technology, decades old - and is one of the lowest performing aircraft out there.

    The vessels used for exploring the world back in the days of Columbus were cutting edge, at the forefront of technology. You might laugh because you don't think ancient maritime "technology" (like an accurate clock, or good ropes) is real technology - but back then many ships were lost at sea for lack of something as simple as an accurate watch. Columbus himself was one of the first to try to use celestial navigation, and his ships were on the cutting edge of nautical technology.

    If we use an analog to modern aviation. we'd be using heavily modified Space Shuttles to fly to Mars. (Ironically, the Ares program almost did just that.)
     
  20. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    6,207
    Only because the technology was developing very slowly. Columbus and Cook both used ships that were strictly off-the-shelf, which was my point.

    Navigation is a separate issue. We don't have to invent any new navigation technology to take us to Mars.

    I don't think so. The Space Shuttle was designed for a specific type of mission. Columbus and Cook chose the available existing ships that were best-suited to his purpose. There were thousands of similar ships used for a variety of other purposes.
     
  21. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    10,182
    And what abut the Vikings, who made it across the N Atlantic almost a thousand years before either of these? But this is perhaps a somewhat arid debate. What interests me about a return to manned space fight is the justification for it now that we have such good automation, compared to what we had when we went to the moon. Today, we scarcely need pilots in our military jets - drones are far cheaper, just as effective, it seems and pose no personal risk to the operators (apart from obesity, perhaps).
     
  22. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    19,312
    Columbus and Cook took existing ships that were best-suited for trading and adapted them to their mission. Here in the US we have a tradition of doing the same thing. First US man in space? He went on a repurposed ICBM. First man in orbit? Same thing. Our first space station? A repurposed Saturn V third stage.

    When we eventually get to Mars I have no doubt it will be launched on a repurposed commercial launch vehicle, likely with a repurposed on-orbit capsule for the crew. We will still have to build a lot of new stuff (mainly to deal with the unusual environment of Mars) but it would not surprise me at all to see the crew launch on a Falcon and land in a Dragon.
     
  23. sideshowbob Sorry, wrong number. Valued Senior Member

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    I agree. I can see the value of manned spaceflight to send Mr. Goodwrench into orbit to fix our satellites, telescopes, etc. But to dovetail with my previous point, sending humans to Mars adds a whole other layer of technology just for keeping humans alive.
     

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