Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mad Dash to Plan B

NASA needs a bigger budget from Congress to get to Mars. Check out Dan Vergano’s article, NASA's Mars Program Is As Sad As It’s Ever Been

Elon Musk is considering pulling back on Mars for now. Check out this interview:

He needs to get the astronauts to space and to the ISS. He also needs to make it happen by next year. No  pressure. Except, no more landing legs for Dragon (see minute 35:45). So no power landing for it either, so no Red Dragon, either, and Dragon won’t land on the moon either. Come to think about it, that’s a lot of things. And there goes much of Musk's Mars plans for Mars out the window. And why? Well, real practical practice takes priority over dreams.

Notice that Musk said, “If you want to get people fired up, you make a base on the Moon. And then going beyond that, getting people to Mars.” He said this in minute 24:46.

Robert Bigelow was also at the same conference Musk was at. Check out this video.

Bigelow proposes going back to the moon before Mars because the Chinese are heading to the moon and we need to beat them to it. The prize is resources.

ESA wants to make an international base on the moon. They have been in talks with China about it, (article: That’s very interesting. Let’s wait and see how things pan out.

It seems that Russia also has an interest in a mission to the moon (article: We also need to wait on this as well. Maybe they will hook up with another country for this.

So what do we make of all this talk in the summer of 2017? To me, I can only conclude that for now Mars is out and the Moon is in on everyone’s agenda, including NASA’s. In my opinion this represents a change of plans that is steered by finances and resources. It’s sad that the dreamers dreams are put on hold for Mars. If you want to see a Mars landing, I suggest you keep healthy and plan to live a long life.

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” Robert Burns.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Second Stages in the Planning

In recent history, SpaceX has demonstrated mastery of first stage reusability with the launch and landing of their first stage Falcon 9 again. What of the second stage? ULA, Blue Origin, and SpaceX all have planned, designed, and are building rockets that make innovative use of the second or upper stage.

The New Glenn rocket, by Blue Origin, is to be a very large reusable first stage. The second stage is a throw away, just like the traditional second stages. The innovation comes where they stack two second stages on top of one another. This effectively makes a bigger overall rocket without extra development costs of designing a bigger second stage. Sounds interesting, but nothing spectacular.

The Vulcan rocket, by ULA, will have the ACES upper stage. ACES will be more than just an upper stage, it will be a space tug capable of taking payloads to the lunar surface. It will also be able to refuel other ACES. It will have a fuel cell to produce its own electricity and take payloads on long duration missions. Reminds me of a five year mission I heard somewhere...hmm. I doubt that it's fuel cell will last that long without ref
Credit NASA: Saturn V second stage
ueling, but overall it sound pretty cool for commercial science missions.

The Interplanetary Spaceship, by SpaceX, seemingly doesn't have an upper stage. It's upper stage has been incorporated into the body of the spaceship. Yep, it's that thing in the back with 40 raptor engines. What SpaceX has done in designing this ship, is that they have created a ship straight out of classic science fiction. The second stage has become fully reusable. It does everything. It launches. It refuels. It lands. What more could you ask for from an upper stage? In my mind, this design takes the lot. It's far out there. It makes you think why we weren't designing spaceships like this in the first place. But that's a whole other discussion. In the interim, SpaceX may try to reuse land and reuse an upper stage on its Falcon Heavy. If successful, it would mean another technical and economic victory, over launch prices, for the company.

Rockets are changing, hopefully for the better. Which application of the upper stage will become standard? Only time will tell.