Obama’s capsule conundrum, what you hadn’t noticed?

by | Feb 4, 2010 | Seradata News | 21 comments

The total annihilation of the Constellation programme with the culling of the Orion crew exploration vehicle and any vestigal remains of the Ares V cargo launch vehicle was a surprise for this blogger. Despite the prospects for Constellation beginning to look bad last year with the Review of US human spaceflight plans Lockheed Martin officials could still be seen smiling at the technical conferences I attend while Ares contractors were obviously not happy bunnies

And that big smile on Lockheed’s employees’ faces seemed justified because, for what has felt like forever, we have been hearing that a commercial provider could deliver crew and cargo to the International Space Station but something else would take the brave explorers beyond low Earth orbit. Throughout all of the kerfuffle over the cancellation of Constellation in the last few days this blog has not spotted (correct me if I’m wrong) any one asking the question, what are the astronauts travelling beyond LEO to travel in?

Think about it, your commercial provider will have designed a capsule thermal protection system (TPS) for re-entering the atmosphere at just under 17,500mph but now you’re heading into the cosmos on this “flexible path” as NASA calls it to visit an asteroid or circumnavigate the Moon or deploy or service a telescope at L1 or L2 – and then you have to head home at speeds well in excess of 17,500mph. How confident would you feel about your TPS?

This is the situation Obama’s space plan has left the US exploration efforts in. A propulsion R&D project for an unknown “heavy lift” rocket of the future, other unspecified technology efforts and a commercial competition for LEO access, only

There is no manned spacecraft for leaving Earth orbit. Oh but you can use a “block II” of the commercial capsule I hear someone out there cry

Uh oh I reply. Hasn’t anyone learned already that unless you get your specifications right at the beginning you’re just looking for a world of cost and schedule overruns? I guess not

Assuming your LEO access rocket, whatever that will be, can lift this beefier beyond Earth orbit capsule and your happy to accept a smaller crew count for the longer trips I guess you can stick with the same outer mold line but your TPS, service module and crew capsule innards are all going to be very very different

Hello extensive redesign, hello doubling your costs to produce “block II”. This should not sound like a swipe at commercial providers, it is not, it is just a reflection upon the realities of designing a spacecraft for one order of magnitude of re-entry heat flux when another order of magnitude of heat flux is just a few years down the road

You’ve got it all wrong, voices from the blogosphere shout, the heavy lift will take the beyond LEO capsule into orbit, it will be a new more effective design enabled with the technologies developed under the research programme Obama wants to enact

That is an argument, and with the Congressional backlash good arguments are going to be needed, but what timing is envisaged for this new path of exploration and how does this mystery capsule fit in with it?

NASA administrator Charles Bolden says tiger teams are hard at work analysing the needs for the “flexible path’s” many missions. Somehow I think a manned spacecraft that can keep at least a crew of three alive for weeks at a time is going to be in that mix somewhere

And where will the money for that Orion redux come from?

About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned Seradata database. Trusted by over 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, Seradata is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to https://www.seradata.com/product/

Related Articles

Galactic Energy of China suffers first launch failure of its Ceres-1 rocket losing insured Jilin 1 Gaofen 04B-01

Having been launched at 0459 GMT on the morning of 21 September it later filtered out that the Ceres-1 Y11 Read more

Starlink Group 6-17 is launched by Falcon 9

SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9v1.2FT Block 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA at 0338 GMT on 20 September Read more

Electron KS rocket has another failure losing Acadia 2 radar Earth observation satellite

Rocket Lab launched Electron KS from Māhia Peninsula, New Zealand, at 0655 GMT on 19 September 2023. The Electron was Read more

China launches Long March 2D carrying Yaogan 39 trio

China successfully launched a Long March 2D/2 (CZ-2D/2) from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre, Sichuan Province, China at 0312 GMT on Read more

SpaceX launches Falcon 9 with Starlink Group 6-16 aboard

SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9v1.2FT Block 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA at 0338 GMT on 16 September Read more

Soyuz MS-24 is launched into orbit on Soyuz 2-1a from Baikonur on way to ISS

Soyuz MS-24 was launched via a Soyuz 2-1a rocket into orbit at 1544 GMT on 15 September 2023 from Baikonur Read more

Victus Nox payload is launched by Firefly Alpha in rapid response launch test

There was an unexpected launch of the Firefly Alpha rocket (its third flight) which took place from Vandenberg, California, at Read more

Film of ancient ‘alien bodies’ is displayed at Congress of Mexico hearing

Following on from similar US Congressional hearings on UFOs which appeared to have footage of flying UFOs, at a Mexican Read more

Chinese Long March 6A rocket carries new Yaogan 40 triplet to LEO

Launching at 0430 GMT on 10 September a Chinese Long March 6A (CZ-6A) rocket carried the Yaogan 40 mission into Read more




nasaspacexecoreviewsissesaArianespacevideochina25virgin galacticfalcon 9ULAFalcon 9v1.2FT Block 5RoscosmosevaDGAspacewalkaviation weekaressoyuzIGTInternational Space StationBeidouawardsspaceBlue OriginSatellite broadcastingRocket LabStarlinkrussiamoonCargo Return VehicleboeingAirbus DSmarsblogresearchISROOneWeborionspaceshiptwojaxaimpacthyperboladelaymarsdemocratrocketEutelsatobamagoogle lunar prizelunarhypertextlaunchVegaSEStourismbarack obamaconstellationfiguresnorthspaceflightthales alenia spacenode 2fundedRaymond LygoIntelsatLockheed Martin2009Express MD-2Atlas Vromess2Elon Muskdassault aviationaviationLucy2008wk2sstlukradiotestmissilesuborbitaldocking portexplorationAriane 5 ECAVirgin OrbitinternetChina Manned Space EngineeringAriane 5SLSsts-1222010flightspace tourismNorthrop Grummancotsnewspapermissile defensegalileospaceportExpress AMU 1Long March 2D/2Electronbuildspace stationaltairLong March 4Cinternational astronautical congresssoyuz 2-1ashuttleProton MEuropean Space AgencyLauncherOneCosmosIntelsat 23scaled compositeshanleybudgetrulesnew yorkAriane 6shenzhouspace shuttleatvVietnamcongressMojaveboldenLong March 2COrbital ATKnew shepardInmarsatGuiana Space CenteriaccnesksclawsSpace Systems/LoralUK Space AgencyLong March 4BILSUS Air Forceprotonlunar landerTalulah RileyApollodarpaFalcon 9v1.2 Block 5Kuaizhou 1AVega CSkylonAstriumeupicturebaseusaastronautdragonlanderfiveeventTelesatSSLElectron KSNorth KoreaAprilSNCWednesdayinterviewSea Launchfalcon50thcustomerlinkLong Marchatlantissuccessor