In my talk at Space Access in April on the “Impedance Matching” panel, I raised the issue of how to completely decouple atmospheric vehicles from pure in-space ones. That is, right now, all paths to LEO seem to go through a launch pad, even coming back from some place else (e.g., the moon or deep space). This is because it’s difficult and expensive to circularize there from places less deep in the well. It’s difficult to do aerobraking safely and reliably in a single pass, and multiple passes means that the maneuver can take a long time, which can be a problem for crewed vehicles. And of course, this doesn’t even address the issue of getting into the right orbital plane. But until we can fix this, we’ll always have the ugly and inelegant situation of having to come all the way back the the earth’s surface from any beyond-LEO destination, and have to spend resources relifting crew for each trip, and make a true transportation node in LEO (i.e., one that can be reached from any destination, either from the surface or in space) impractical.

Anyway, I’d like to see what kinds of ideas get kicked around in comments here, perhaps with the hope of doing a presentation at the SSI conference in October.

[Afternoon update]

Circularizing propulsively is of course an option, but it’s hard to see how it’s a cost-effective one, until propellant in space is really cheap. Assuming that one doesn’t aerobrake at all, it takes just as much delta-V to get into LEO as it does to leave it, and it would require an improbably large vehicle if the departing vehicle has to carry enough propellant to recircularize on the way back. Which, of course, again demonstrates the value of depots. With one at L-1, perhaps supplied from either the lunar surface or an asteroid, it might make sense to fuel up there for the circularization in LEO. It all comes back of course, to the point that I made in my essay last year — that reusability implies gas stations, and that it’s impractical without them. As Jon Goff demonstrated with his amusing “We don’t need no stinkin’ depots” slide at Space Access, which was a picture of his car with extra gas tanks for driving cross country, the more often you can fuel on a trip, the smaller your vehicle can be and, due to the exponential nature of the rocket equation, that goes in spades for space vehicles.


A Clunker Of A Program

Jason Kuznicki takes a look back at one of the economically stupidest and vicious things that the government did in the past two years (and that’s saying something, considering how much policy stupidity has abounded):

See how that works? You can’t get something for nothing. Cash for Clunkers turns out to have been a highly inefficient wealth-transfer program, that is, one that destroyed a bunch of wealth along the way. It gave wealth to those already relatively wealthy people who did the government’s bidding (that is, those who could afford to part with a used car and buy a new one). And now it’s taking wealth from those relatively poor people who need a used car today — in the form of higher prices.

Along the way, it destroyed hundreds of thousands of cars — that’s the real wealth these poor people don’t have access to anymore, because the scrapped cars aren’t a part of the economy.

And this is what passes for a successful government program.

And I had idiots here in my own comments section applauding it as being a “success” because so many people (willing to take handouts) participated in it. This is the same kind of warped thinking that declares a legislator “successful” if he passes lots of legislation, regardless of its quality, or how damaging to the Republic it is. I’m always amazed and amused at the morons who think that I should be impressed by the president, and approve of him more, because he managed to ram so much of his destructive agenda through.

On The Horizon

…a perfect Iranian storm. A depressing interview by Michael Totten on the state of the Middle East.

MJT: The Arab world has its own political culture, and it’s not like the political culture I know, or even like other Middle Eastern political cultures.

If the Palestinians had a Western political culture, the problem here could be resolved in ten minutes. If you Israelis were dealing with Canadians instead of Palestinians, you would have had peace a long time ago. And if the Palestinians were dealing with Canadians instead of Israelis, there would still be a conflict.

Jonathan Spyer: That’s exactly right. And that’s why it’s so frustrating sometimes when people say, “If only the two sides could sit down and talk.”

MJT: What is it that U.S. policy-makers don’t currently understand about this part of the world? If you could have their ears for five or ten minutes, what would you tell them?

Jonathan Spyer: I’d tell the current bunch in power that they need to ditch this sophomoric idea that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to the region’s malaise.

They need to get that out of their heads. That’s not what I’d want to talk about. That’s not even an adult conversation. Once we can clear that up, we can talk about something serious.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!