Category Archives: Space History

Light Blogging, And Reusability

Things have been kind of quiet on the blog because a) I’m still busy renovating the house in Florida and more importantly, b) my bandwidth is limited here, as there’s no Internet service to the house, and I have to rely on tethering to my phone.

I didn’t post about it at the time, but my Twitter followers know that I drove up to the Cape on Saturday afternoon, with a press pass to the SpaceX launch early Sunday morning. It was the first Falcon launch I’ve seen on the east coast (I did see one pass through the clouds at the January Vandenberg launch).

It was impressive. I don’t know what the quantity distance is for that vehicle, but we were on a causeway in the middle of the Indian River at CCAFS, and I think the pad was only a couple miles away, judging from the time that I saw the ignition and started to hear (and feel) the roar. It was sufficiently bright that it temporarily shut down the center of my retinas, but I could see it all the way downrange past staging. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rocket naked eye that far downrange. It was very impressive, but I hope it becomes routine, including the landing, if it hasn’t already. The next step is to start reflying those stages that they continue to collect (six now). I told John Taylor that SpaceX now has a bigger fleet of reusable rockets than NASA ever had.

Speaking of which, Stephanie Osborn has a guest post from a fellow former NASA colleague with thoughts on the failure of reusability of the Shuttle.

I think that whether single pour or the selected segmented design, solid rockets on a reusable crewed vehicle were a mistake. And the fact that Jim Fletcher was head of NASA (and “Barfing Jake” Garn) is also part of the explanation for building them in Utah, Florida’s environmental regulations notwithstanding.

But as I’ve noted in the past, it’s a huge fallacy of hasty generalization to attempt to draw lessons about reusability of spacecraft from that program.

Jimmy Carter And The Space Shuttle

Did he save it? And if so, why? An interesting bit of history of which I’d been unaware. Mondale wanted to kill it, and did manage to reduce the fleet size from seven to five (including Enterprise, which never flew). Which was economically stupid, because it saved very little money. If we’d had six vehicles, we’d have still had four after the losses of Challenger and Columbia (assuming that we hadn’t built Endeavour from spares after Challenger, and those two events would have occurred in that alternate universe). A four- or five-ship fleet would have made for a slightly different calculus after the loss of the latter, because part of the reason the program was ended was that three was too small a fleet to continue to operate for long.

Ending Apolloism

I’ve posted an update on my SLS Roadblock project, for those interested. The document itself can be found here. I’ll be interested in feedback.

[Tuesday-morning update]

Related: Growing a spacecraft for artificial gravity.

Half a million dollars. 0.03% of what we’re spending annually on SLS/Orion.

[Tuesday-morning update]

I’ve fixed a few problems with the document, including some missing figures, so you might want to refresh or download again.