Saturday, January 15, 2011

Faster, Cheaper, Better?

Dr. Paul Spudis of the Lunar and Planetary Institute has been distributing this graph of heavy lift options available to NASA. By far the least expensive and quickest to develop is Sidemount, what used to be called a Shuttle-C. It makes use of the existing Shuttle infrastructure--External Tank, Solid Rocket Boosters, avionics, VAB, Crawler Transporters, Launch Complex 39 and the people who know how to run those things. Presently those production lines are being shut down and the people laid off. Sidemount also would have some of the costs of Shuttle, so it will never be inexpensive as private rockets. It would guarantee that we can send people beyond LEO until private rockets are ready. The Sidemount booster could even send crews toward the Moon.

The Lunar Orbit Rendezvous also allows the lander to put cargo on the Moon unmanned. Indendently, the crew vehicle could be sent on missions to lunar orbit, Lagrangian points or the asteroids. The US Congress has directed NASA to build a heavy lift launch vehicle. Sidemount may be the only option that can fulfill Congressional requirements within NASA budget. NASA leaders should consider this if they want a future in Space.

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Blogger Ralph Buttigieg said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:34 AM  
Blogger Ralph Buttigieg said...


Louise, 2-3 Falcon 9 Heavies can put the same payload up and far cheaper too. If required Elon reckons he can do a Super Heavy Lift for $2.5B. Considering that unlike NASA, he has successfully built rockets in the last 30 years I tend to believe him. Considering NASA's history of cost overruns why would anyone believe them?

Hell, the private sector could properly do an entire moon base for that $6B.

1:34 AM

1:35 AM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

Welcome, Ralph. Yes, the background of this story is that if NASA can't get an act together, Elon or someone else will. I can even imagine a future where the Falcon 9 Heavy, for only 95 million per launch, supports missions to Mars. A NASA-developed HLV would fill the gap until a more efficient (private) rocket is ready.

6:09 AM  
Anonymous ken anthony said...

Louise, the priority should not be a NASA HLV. Kill that idea. Focusing on the launch platform is a huge mistake. Put a general purpose ship in orbit instead based on a reliable storable fuel engine like the Merlin.

Build it around a Bigelow BA330 ($200m to orbit) and for less than half a billion here's what you get...

The ship is a mobile fuel depot creating a market for a great many companies to profitably supply the ship.

Put the ship in lunar orbit and it becomes a supply station for trips to the lunar surface (once a refuel and go lander is developed.)

It becomes a prototype for a larger $2b ship with enough delta V to take a mission to mars orbit.

(In style with over 2300 m^3 of internal volume.)

No heavy lift required.

9:34 PM  
Anonymous samrx said...

I like to read about this kind of things because it's amazing to admire how technology is moving forward.

11:46 AM  
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