Discussion A contingency plan for fast return of the U.S. to space.

BruceJohnJennerLawso

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One thing I've noticed is that Congress continually wants NASA to do more things, but continually slash their budget every year.

Commercial Crew was expected in 2015, but budget cuts pushed it to 2017, and now, when we desperately need A RELIABLE way (not based on Russian geopolitics or trampolines) to get to the ISS, Congress is asking NASA how to accelerate CCDev back to 2015 AGAIN, and still haven't even given they any sort of new funding. How predictable and ironic.

The US space program isn't going to get anywhere fast this way.

Very true

And the dumbest thing about it is that more money is being wasted on stops and starts than it would take to get basic crewed flight going again. They dont seem to realize that once a program is marked for the guillotine it cant be magically revived 6 months or a year later after staff have been laid off, and contracts have been cancelled.

I guess even basic projects are beyond the attention span of modern politics. :facepalm:
 

ISProgram

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Even though I'm American, I'm gonna be real here: America's space program is not as great as NASA or Congress think/want it to be, and will never be this way until we get at least some funding reminiscent of Apollo. Which, of course, is never going to happen. Optimistically, Congress could at least give NASA the funding it asks for every year or at least keep funding levels stable. Again, probably not going/likely to happen.

Now funding aside, the real problem with the American space program is that there is not a lot of domestic production. Now, we have RL-10s, and RS-68s, and all of that stuff, but think about it. The last time we actually made a lot of engines was way back in the Space Race (RS-25 and 68 aside). Most, if not all, of our liquid engines are just derivatives of those engines (RL-10, RS-27A) from the Saturn era. The main domestic developer of rocket engines, recently, has been SpaceX. We should not be buying RD-180s and NK-33s from Russia if it starts a crisis like the one we are possibly facing now.

I'm gonna try to end this before it gets out of hand, but another serious problem with this space program is its lack of launch vehicles. Now we have a lot of those (Antares, Falcon 9, Atlas V, Taurus, etc.), but only two (Atlas V and Delta IV) are really doing the bulk of our space launches, and only one is certified to carry critical payloads for NASA (Atlas V). The Atlas V, of course, has a foreign engine. If it dies, a lot of what we launch will be in trouble. Thus, this monopoly (by ULA) should end, but not necessarily in the way SpaceX is trying to end it (by cancelling Atlas). Just for a note, I both approve and disapprove of SpaceX's lawsuit against ULA.

...That is all...
 

Keatah

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Very true

And the dumbest thing about it is that more money is being wasted on stops and starts than it would take to get basic crewed flight going again. They dont seem to realize that once a program is marked for the guillotine it cant be magically revived 6 months or a year later after staff have been laid off, and contracts have been cancelled.

I guess even basic projects are beyond the attention span of modern politics. :facepalm:

I see this in so many endeavors today. There seems to be a lack of critical thinking here. Software & hardware design being my current pet peeve.
 
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JonnyBGoode

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I had a thought on this today... which would probably make for good sci-fi, anyway. What if Russia decided to literally deny the US access to the ISS, and we had to send armed crews up there to physically liberate it?
 

Urwumpe

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I had a thought on this today... which would probably make for good sci-fi, anyway. What if Russia decided to literally deny the US access to the ISS, and we had to send armed crews up there to physically liberate it?

It could get really funny, since the ISS without MCC Houston and the real-time network would be pretty useless.

The Russians could separate their half from the rest and have a space station (and create the biggest piece of space debris ever). With rationed electricity and only short stays of the crew, until the solar arrays have been replaced. Likely the Russian modules would fail soon anyway because of aging. And Russia would need to pay a whole lotta money to the USA, Japan and ESA, if they break the ISS contract before 2020 - because these paid 90% of the show - Without some US cash, the Russian modules would not even exist, Russia had really bad financial problems doing their part of the ISS contract.

Of course, the USA could fix the USOS space debris with the mothballed interim control module for some days, or better the ISS propulsion module... if they manage to build it before the ISS decays. There is no way to reboost the ISS without a spacecraft with international docking adapter - Dragon and HTV would be off-axis, the ATV can't dock at all. The next candidate in sight would be Orion.

ISS_Propulsion_module.jpg


Likely, the USOS would be lost before something can be done. And it would have a small chance to kill some humans after the 3 months that it needs to decay... but winning in the lottery is more likely.
 
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ISProgram

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The Russians could separate their half from the rest and have a space station (and create the biggest piece of space debris ever)

They could definitely do that. Remember OPSEK (shown here attached to ISS)?
ISS-OPSEK.jpg


:hmm: Now, if they did that in its current configuration, it be lights out or extensive power-saving, since Russia buys off power from the USOS solar arrays. Of course, the ROS hardware has more control over the ISS than the USOS does.

Most probable scenario is that you split ISS, the USOS tumbles and enjoys a hypersonic reentry into Earth in a few weeks, whereupon the ROS (or most of it) would just power down. And China is laughing because they still have a space station that works right. And Kessler syndrome, which will get that station soon enough... :eek:h:

Only The Probe truly knows... :probe:
 

Andy44

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If Russia denies access to the station then it gives the US an excuse to save money and spend it on something more useful. But this is all posturing and I doubt it's going to happen.

My prediction is that Putin will make his point and then try to patch things up in due time, and the ISS will go on as usual until 2020 at least.
 

orbitingpluto

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Most probable scenario is that you split ISS, the USOS tumbles and enjoys a hypersonic reentry into Earth in a few weeks, whereupon the ROS (or most of it) would just power down.

Un-freaking-likely. And I'm not just talking about the political side of things. The only thing the USOS lacks that the ROS has is something to do reboosts and desaturate the CMGs. Last I heard though, Zarya is owned by the US. Which has propellent tanks, thrusters, and engines, which should be able to fill the gap left by the departing parts of the ROS. I admit that it's engines and thrusters are deactivated right now, but it's not like the option doesn't exist.

Presumably, exploiting gravity gradients to desaturate the CMGs, lowering solar-array induced drag as much as possible, and stopping all unnecessary work the USOS could eek out longer than you think without any Russian help, even Zarya.

And Kessler syndrome, which will get that station soon enough... :eek:h:

[ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kessler_syndrome"]This Kessler syndrome[/ame]? Could you elaborate how exactly Kessler syndrome "will get that station", because I'm bit confused as to what you're getting at.
 

ISProgram

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Un-freaking-likely. And I'm not just talking about the political side of things. The only thing the USOS lacks that the ROS has is something to do reboosts and desaturate the CMGs. Last I heard though, Zarya is owned by the US. Which has propellent tanks, thrusters, and engines, which should be able to fill the gap left by the departing parts of the ROS. I admit that it's engines and thrusters are deactivated right now, but it's not like the option doesn't exist.

Presumably, exploiting gravity gradients to desaturate the CMGs, lowering solar-array induced drag as much as possible, and stopping all unnecessary work the USOS could eek out longer than you think without any Russian help, even Zarya.



This Kessler syndrome? Could you elaborate how exactly Kessler syndrome "will get that station", because I'm bit confused as to what you're getting at.

Well, most (if not all) of the post was a joke, since you couldn't easily separate those two halves anyway, with all those umbilicals though Zarya.

Also, Uwumpe mentioned this:
The Russians could separate their half from the rest and have a space station (and create the biggest piece of space debris ever)

We all know what the link between space debris and the Kessler syndrome is, so no further explanation, I guess, is needed. That explains that, and given that the ISS orbit and Tiangong 1 orbit intersect, neglecting orbital altitude, I see no reason why a ring of debris in a localized orbit couldn't hit that Chinese station (even though it is VERY unlikely)...

As for the fate of the USOS/ROS, the ROS is certainly in no condition to be a independent space station (it can barely power itself, and it's no OPSEK yet), ad the USOS does not have independent active control, since Zarya is somewhat shutdown (at the moment) as you mentioned. I̶'̶m̶ ̶a̶l̶s̶o̶ ̶s̶o̶m̶e̶w̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶d̶o̶u̶b̶t̶f̶u̶l̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶Z̶a̶r̶y̶a̶ ̶c̶a̶n̶ ̶p̶r̶o̶v̶i̶d̶e̶ ̶e̶n̶o̶u̶g̶h̶ ̶i̶m̶p̶u̶l̶s̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶k̶e̶e̶p̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶e̶n̶t̶i̶r̶e̶ ̶U̶S̶O̶S̶ ̶u̶p̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶a̶ ̶m̶e̶a̶n̶i̶n̶g̶f̶u̶l̶ ̶a̶m̶o̶u̶n̶t̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶t̶i̶m̶e̶ ̶b̶e̶f̶o̶r̶e̶ ̶i̶t̶ ̶r̶u̶n̶s̶ ̶o̶u̶t̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶p̶r̶o̶p̶e̶l̶l̶a̶n̶t̶.̶ ̶I̶t̶ ̶c̶o̶u̶l̶d̶,̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶c̶o̶u̶r̶s̶e̶,̶ ̶s̶t̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶d̶e̶s̶a̶t̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶C̶M̶G̶s̶.̶ Zarya's two main engines, which would be needed to make major orbital changes, are permanently disabled. They have been ever since Zvezda docked. Zarya is basically a fuel tank now, storing fuel for the aforementioned module. Zvezda would be needed to provide any sort of maneuvers to keep the USOS up, and its part of the ROS, so that wouldn't be a option.

Now, in other news, somewhat less relevant to the thread topic, Russian and China are cooperating more closely...
 

orbitingpluto

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Well, most (if not all) of the post was a joke, since you couldn't easily separate those two halves anyway, with all those umbilicals though Zarya.

If you start joking, you should let people know next time. I took you seriously, and you didn't give me a hint that I wasn't supposed to. Also, while it's unlikely that the ISS will be divided up, based on what we know we can propose reasonable scenarios of what may happen. That it would involve difficult operations like separating umbilicals seems like more of a reason to discuss it, at least to me.:)

We all know what the link between space debris and the Kessler syndrome is, so no further explanation, I guess, is needed. That explains that, and given that the ISS orbit and Tiangong 1 orbit intersect, neglecting orbital altitude, I see no reason why a ring of debris in a localized orbit couldn't hit that Chinese station (even though it is VERY unlikely)...

It isn't a given that the ISS(or just the USOS part of it) will create a massive expanding debris cloud, at least not without other debris colliding with it. While that is considerably more likely it it didn't have the ability to maneuver itself out of the way, it's something you shouldn't gloss over.

Zarya's two main engines, which would be needed to make major orbital changes, are permanently disabled. They have been ever since Zvezda docked. Zarya is basically a fuel tank now, storing fuel for the aforementioned module. Zvezda would be needed to provide any sort of maneuvers to keep the USOS up, and its part of the ROS, so that wouldn't be a option.

There's no citation at Wikipedia(where I saw that as well) for the statement that Zarya's main engines are permanently disabled, and I wasn't able to find something to that effect in the references, aside from this at NASA's website:

Two large engines were available for reboosting the spacecraft and making major orbital changes before Zvezda arrived.

I do know that Zarya's thrusters have been reactivated on occasion, and it's likely the main reason the engines are permanently disabled is simply to prevent harm to modules to it's aft. It's permanent on the basis that Zarya and Zvedza aren't going to be separated, not due to anything inherently wrong with the engines. Meaning in our hypothetical scenario involving Zvedza and the other Russian modules leaving, there is the option to use Zarya's engines. There is Zarya's thrusters as well, which are capable of the translational firings to provide a weak reboost, but a reboost nonetheless. Zarya might be lumped in with the ROS, but it's American ownership isn't in doubt, and it could very well make maneuvers to keep the ISS(or the USOS part of it) at safe altitudes. Propellent is an issue, but it's sure bet it could play a hand in extending safe operation to a few months rather than the few weeks you suggested as likely.
 

RGClark

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Support Grows For New U.S. Rocket Engine.
Amy Butler Frank Morring, Jr. May 26, 2014
http://m.aviationweek.com/space/support-grows-new-us-rocket-engine

Possibilities might be the engines investigated a decade ago for a possible heavy lift booster. Unfortunately they were cancelled in 2004 after the Ares V was decided upon. One such engine was the reusable RS-84.

In 2009 when the Obama administration was considering producing a heavy lift kerosene engine there was talk of resurrecting it, but it was cancelled again when the SLS was decided upon. This article from 2003 said it would take until 2007, 4 years, to produce it:

RS-84 Engine Passes Preliminary Design Milestone.
Huntsville – Jul 16, 2003
The RS-84 is one of two competing efforts now under way to develop an alternative to conventional, hydrogen-fueled engine technologies. The RS-84 is a reusable, staged combustion rocket engine fueled by kerosene — a relatively low-maintenance fuel with high performance and high density, meaning it takes less fuel-tank volume to permit greater propulsive force than other technologies.
http://www.spacedaily.com/news/rocketscience-03zm.html

IF development continued for an additional year up to 2004 and IF the development materials and designs were retained, then conceivably development could be restarted and completed in just 3 additional years.
In any case I’d like to see a study done to see how long and how much it would cost to complete its development.

Another possibility might be the TR-107:

NASA invests $21 million in TR107 engine development.
6 May 2003
http://www.theengineer.co.uk/news/n...gine-development/278975.article#ixzz32b7sNvZf

Bob Clark
 

ISProgram

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There's always the F1 and F1B...

Maybe not, since the booster competition for SLS is/may be postponed indefinitely...
While NASA has shelved the J-2X in favor of Boeing’s RL-10-based upper-stage designs, the agency is no longer looking at replacing the five-segment solid-rocket boosters that will power SLS on its 2017 and 2021 missions. NASA officials warned earlier this year that it could afford to develop a new SLS upper stage or the advanced boosters, but not both.

Of course, the engine might still be developed by internal funding from Dynetics and/or Pratt & Whitney.
 

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And there is still a raft of F1's sitting in storage since the Apollo days. Might as well use them for something cool.
 

Urwumpe

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And there is still a raft of F1's sitting in storage since the Apollo days. Might as well use them for something cool.

Would still be better to use them like in the past years: For studying engine dynamics of such large engines and learn lessons for future engines.

As cool as the F-1 engine is... its an oldtimer. Modern technology could allow doing something more useful, than wasting the last dozen engines (which are generally in a pretty bad shape) for a one time shot.
 

Andy44

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Would still be better to use them like in the past years: For studying engine dynamics of such large engines and learn lessons for future engines.

As cool as the F-1 engine is... its an oldtimer. Modern technology could allow doing something more useful, than wasting the last dozen engines (which are generally in a pretty bad shape) for a one time shot.

Rocketdyne has been doing that with the F1B, as recently as a couple of years ago. The surplus F1s shouldn't be in bad shape if they were stored properly; and they could indeed be used as test articles. As long as you don't actually fly them and dump them into salt water they can be restarted more than once.

All wishful thinking on my part, of course. No money for any of this cool stuff. NASA (manned) is starting to look like the Klipper and Energia programs. Lots of talk but no flying.
 

Urwumpe

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Rocketdyne has been doing that with the F1B, as recently as a couple of years ago. The surplus F1s shouldn't be in bad shape if they were stored properly; and they could indeed be used as test articles. As long as you don't actually fly them and dump them into salt water they can be restarted more than once.

Ten of the still existing engines are installed in Saturn V rockets put on display. Only one other engines is in a really good shape. Another one, which was in a good shape, was disassembled and used for tests to create the F-1B design.

Also, you can't infinitely restart rocket engines, even on a test stand. Tear and wear also takes place there, often you need to replace turbopumps completely during such tests.

About the US government manned space program... it looks pretty undead to me.
 

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Another rant...

About the US government manned space program... it looks pretty undead to me.

What exactly does that mean...? :confused:

If you ask me, the US space program in general is in jeopardy, and it's been that way for a while. Nevermind that budget, which we can't do anything about, but the main problem today is that our domestic space program lacks "diversity". Of course, I'm referring to the ULA launch monopoly.

Now, I don't fully support SpaceX's lawsuit against ULA, but they were pretty clever with their claim that the Atlas V's RD-180 might violate sanctions placed of Russia. The AV was the biggest threat against their Falcon 9 (forget the DIV, too expensive and not cost competitive). Only the AV is classed for carrying critical payloads for NASA, and I think everyone will agree that it is the US' workhorse launcher.
Precisely why SNC and Boeing put their Dream Chaser and CST-100 on it, respectively. Unfortunately, both of those crew vehicles (our main hope for LEO availability besides Soyuz) will be looking for a new ride if AV goes. CST-100 might survive on a DIV, since it has a plug-and-play architecture. Dream Chaser, probably not so much.
SpaceX, on the other hand, has a "established" rocket and a capsule spacecraft, both of which are cheap. While the current F9 can't lift a lot and isn't much of a threat to ULA's continued operations since it has a very limited payload capacity, the FH is a serious threat since it can lift a LOT MORE (53 mT, if I recall) and still cost a LOT LESS than a AV or DIV, even in their smallest configurations. Eliminating the AV would hurt the CCdev vehicles and possibly eliminate them as competition, but not Dragon (or Dragon 2).

SpaceX's main advantage over ULA (if some call it that) is that most of what they make is in-house, and because they are willing to innovate. ULA's main advantage is the fact that they currently maintain a monopoly ad because they use "reliable" heritage vehicles and components.

The US space program as a whole needs to innovate, that much is clear.

And there is still a raft of F1's sitting in storage since the Apollo days. Might as well use them for something cool.

Rocketry isn't a plug-and-play thing, except with OTRAG(?) and CST-100. You can't just stick a rocket engine onto a rocket and call it a day (now that I think about it, the Russians have been doing this with some "seriousness"). It's not as simple as replacing RD-180 with a F-1, since each rocket is specifically designed for its engine. The CCB was designed specifically for a RD-10.
Also, even if you could make a AV w/ F-1 work, you have to deal with a bunch of other issues, like the F-1 different mixture ratio, its higher thrust and the resulting acceleration and loading differences, and especially its specific impulse (150 s is really low for a liquid fueled hydrocarbon engine). The main problem is the fact that we don't have a lot of F-1 to keep the AV going (it'll work as a interim engine) and the fact that we would need to restart production of a F-1 or F-1B.
Much simpler to either co-produce RD-180 or re-engine AV with a newly made domestic engine.

Just my thoughts...:)
 

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What exactly does that mean...? :confused:

If you ask me, the US space program in general is in jeopardy, and it's been that way for a while. Nevermind that budget, which we can't do anything about, but the main problem today is that our domestic space program lacks "diversity". Of course, I'm referring to the ULA launch monopoly.

That's a pretty interesting problem to inflate. First of all, this monopoly would not exist, if the government did not decide to tolerate this. And why did it decide to tolerate it? That is the important question to ask.



Now, I don't fully support SpaceX's lawsuit against ULA, but they were pretty clever with their claim that the Atlas V's RD-180 might violate sanctions placed of Russia. The AV was the biggest threat against their Falcon 9 (forget the DIV, too expensive and not cost competitive). Only the AV is classed for carrying critical payloads for NASA, and I think everyone will agree that it is the US' workhorse launcher.

As much as it really seems to be a tradition in US spaceflight, it also shows how bad the situation really is: The RD-180 is the finest piece of hardware in the US space program since the SSME. Of course made in Russia. But without the Atlas V, this rocket engine would no longer exist. Its a mutual dependency.

Now, SpaceX, maker of the most primitive rocket engines in the world because of them innovating NASAs "not invented here attitude", has sued the company had had been really innovative in their designs. And you easily summarize why. Not because SpaceX had been treated unjust.

Precisely why SNC and Boeing put their Dream Chaser and CST-100 on it, respectively. Unfortunately, both of those crew vehicles (our main hope for LEO availability besides Soyuz) will be looking for a new ride if AV goes. CST-100 might survive on a DIV, since it has a plug-and-play architecture. Dream Chaser, probably not so much.

Keyword: Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt.

SpaceX, on the other hand, has a "established" rocket and a capsule spacecraft, both of which are cheap. While the current F9 can't lift a lot and isn't much of a threat to ULA's continued operations since it has a very limited payload capacity, the FH is a serious threat since it can lift a LOT MORE (53 mT, if I recall) and still cost a LOT LESS than a AV or DIV, even in their smallest configurations. Eliminating the AV would hurt the CCdev vehicles and possibly eliminate them as competition, but not Dragon (or Dragon 2).

Both of which are sold cheap, because SpaceX can do that for damaging competition for a while. I see little in SpaceX operations to assume that it is really cheaper, except by degraded quality.

SpaceX's main advantage over ULA (if some call it that) is that most of what they make is in-house, and because they are willing to innovate. ULA's main advantage is the fact that they currently maintain a monopoly ad because they use "reliable" heritage vehicles and components.

That's no advantage. It only bloats SpaceX operations. Also, what makes them more willed to innovate than other US Space companies? Attempting to land a first stage after flight without any concept of what to do with it after the expensive landing? That's impressive for kids, but shows some big contradictions in SpaceX strategy. Musk wants SpaceX to be under his control as long as he can handle it. And then he will rather sell it, than just stepping into second row.


The US space program as a whole needs to innovate, that much is clear.

The US space program was always the most innovative space program in history. Who needs to innovate are SpaceX and Congress, which are both stuck in the 1960s. Musk easily talks about the bad sides of the US space program, because he needs to talk all others bad for looking good. Same in cars, BTW. The latest BMW i8 is also something that Musk could only stop by lobbying for laws against it.
 
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