Category Archives: Space

China And Space

They seem to be trying to get a little more innovative, but they don’t seem to be in a big hurry about it:

Reusable lift-body launchers will be developed in three stages — rocket-engine partial reusable vehicle, rocket-engine full reusable vehicle and combined cycle-engine reusable vehicle, said Lu.

The Long March carrier rockets still have room for improvement, Lu said, adding that the CALT is developing a heavy-lift launch vehicle with a payload of 140 tonnes to low Earth orbit and 50 tonnes to lunar transfer orbit.

The heavy-lift carrier rocket is currently called the Long March-9, and it should be sent into space by 2030, he said.

[Via Parabolic Arc]

Mars

Another demonstration of how fundamentally unserious we are about it, and what a fraud NASA’s #JourneyToMars is:

“Right now we are unconsciously setting ourselves up for a very difficult Mars program in the 2020s, because of all these immediate needs,” Casey Dreier, director of space policy at the Planetary Society, tells The Verge. “We don’t want to have a problem where we’ve prepared these samples and then they just rot on the ground because we’re unable to commit to bringing them back.”

Dreier argues that, above all, the most immediate need is the development of a new Mars telecommunications orbiter. Any future spacecraft we send to the Red Planet is going to need a way to communicate with mission teams on Earth. Right now, NASA has three operational satellites orbiting Mars, but only two — the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey — are primarily used for telecommunications. And these vehicles are getting old. Both orbiters have been at Mars for more than a decade and have lasted much longer than the span of their primary missions. By the time spacecraft are sent to retrieve samples from Mars, these satellites may have broken down and have stopped functioning. There are other orbiters circling Mars, operated by NASA and other space agencies, but these satellites are primarily aimed at doing science, and their orbits make them ill-suited for telecommunications, according to the Planetary Society.

But we have a giant rocket and a capsule in development that we don’t need to get to Mars, so we have that going for us.

Mithril

OK, not exactly, but this seems like quite a breakthrough:

Weir and Ryan’s excitement was tempered by the range safety officer who pulled his .44 Magnum and told them bluntly, “This will fail.”

Ryan says, “We loaded it in and it stopped it. And it stopped it a second time, and then a third time.”

They realized they had hit on something special, that could potentially lighten the average 26-pound body armor kit worn by servicemen in the field by as much as two thirds.

“This is something that our competition doesn’t have right now,” Weir explained. “And with this advantage our soldiers, if they wear this body armor, will be able to move faster, run farther, jump higher.”

Body armor for the military and first responders may not be the only thing that can be improved by the new fabric. It could possibly be used to reduce or replace the thick metal plates that protect military aircraft, tanks and other vehicles.

Seems like it might be useful in spacecraft as well. Good for her.

More SpaceX Reusability

For years, it was understood that NASA wanted new Dragons for its CRS missions. But today SpaceX is going to fly a used one, with the agency’s permission.

As I’ve long said, there will come a point at which a launch customer will say, “Wait, you want me to trust my ass or my payload to an unflown vehicle?” We’ll look back in amazement at the first seven decades of spaceflight, when we thought it made perfect sense to put payloads on untested systems, and then throw them away after a single flight.

[Update a few minutes later]

Note that NASA allowed this for a cargo mission. I’ll bet they’ll still want new capsules for crew for a while. Speaking of which, NASA is admitting that Boeing and SpaceX are going to have a hard time meeting the totally arbitrary LOC goal of one in 270. I love this:

“The number one safety-related concern for the program is the current situation with respect to the estimate of loss of crew,” Donald McErlean, a former engineering fellow at L-3 Communications and a member of the panel, said at the meeting. “The threshold values were considered to be challenging, and both contractors currently have a challenge to meet that precise number.”

Got that? They’re going to have difficulty meeting that “precise” number. As I noted in the book, the precision with which they calculate these utterly arbitrary numbers, given the state of knowledge about the system, is absurd. And this is the sort of thing that keeps us dependent on the Russians, when neither we nor they have any idea what their reliability or LOC number is.