Author Topic: Jim's "Mythbusters" thread: ISS Lesson Learned - Modules should Skylab Sized  (Read 19045 times)

Offline JohnFornaro

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Your "Myth" series is excellent.

Executive Summary of my post:
Discussing module size on this basis is fundamentally an "Apples to Apollo" comparison.  There are pluses and minuses to either way; we built what we built; we learned a lot; we should continue to use it and build on it.

1. Yes, there were many lessons learned wrt ISS construction.  The actual lesson learned was don't make your components so that they can only be launched/serviced by one vehicle.

2. ISS construction did not take too long because of small modules but because of shuttle standdowns and delayed hardware.  Larger modules do not provide any extra benefit. 

3. Larger open volume is just wasted volume.

1.  I'm slightly confused.  Saturn V launched Skylab, which obviously was too big for shuttle.  I never thought the ISS components were too big.  I always thought we had too few shuttles, that we should have built more so as to do more.  I know, romance without finance don't stand no chance, but still.

But probably even smaller chunx for the ISS would have been impractical.

2. We shoulda had more shuttles built all along, each new one better than the last.

3. I think one of the things needed is more volume.  If we're ever going to be building "motherships" and "colonies", we need volume.  I guess it's still future games, tho.

Personally, I'd like to see more progress and construction that we keep.  ISS is there.  Keep it, and build on it.  Should the new kerolox HLV design happen, sure launch some Skylab modules to it.  Inflatable ones too.

The continuing "Apples to Apollo" comparisons that are being made don't move us forward.  Only construction does.  Another way to say this is, a little less optimization, a little more volume, please.  With thirty Saturn V launches, we could conceivably could have had a 20m diameter ring station, figuring 20 segments, and ten flights for all the other stuff.  (Size, not cost; BOTE; typical disclaimers)  Volume is your friend.

Is there any approximation of a cost breakdown for the ISS, split between launch costs, module construction, costs accrued due to waiting on launcher delays, and so forth? What about for Skylab and Mir?

Someone around here suggested $30B for the ISS; $70B to launch and assemble.

...And one thing that you're missing is that the ISS has gone through a lot of growing pains...  The incremental multi-launch approach means that there's time to fix these problems one by one, rather than having to deal with them all at once.

The larger modules would have had "growing pains" as well, with the downside that failures would have been grander.  Even so, the eventual problems would have had to be fixed.  The point I'm making is that module size, in and of itself will never eliminate the pain nor the repair.  The character, size, cost, and frequency of pain and repair changes with module size.

The cost per cubic foot of module is important, but the comparable figures are subject to much internal debate; true accuracy is hard to come by.

The second point I reluctantly concede (not that I am opposed to being wrong, I just have trouble accepting that stretching the construction time of a project out to make it easier to find all of the engineering failures is a 'feature' rather than a 'bug'.)...

You confuse cause and effect.  The ISS was not built in order to "make it easier" to find and repair problems.  We built what we could with what we had.  If we consider ISS as a "lemon", then some of the "lemonade" that we can make is the relatively small incremental repairs.

The rationale of the designers can also be excluded from the equation.  Say you just got a job on the ISS.  It does no good to say that on your first day on the job, "If youda built the solar panels this way, they never woulda ripped".  You gotta go out and fix the panels that are ripped.

If there's a better way to make and deploy solar panels, and you prove it, and management doesn't listen, that's a different problem; also independent of module size.

1. ISS? Been there, done that! Decommission it after 2015 so that NASA can focus on beyond LEO missions...

2. ...Bigelow has yet to have even a single man in any of their stations...

1. Are you being sarcastic?  I can't tell!  And I'm a master at it!

2. I assume that's a gratuitous statement of obvious fact?  If not, I'm sure Mr. B would appreciate helpful suggestions on how he should proceed, especially regarding his timeframe for deployment.

One of the large disadvantages of a monolithic design...

There's never gonna be a monolithic design.  The will all be modular.  The question continues to revolve around the "biggest smallest chunk" issue.  Just a hair splitting; I quite get your point.

In defense of Shuttle and ISS... this "pickup truck" technique obviated the need for autonomous rendezvous and docking (ARAD) capability...

True, and assembling the depots will be cheaper if done autonomously.  It's not a downside to the ISS, tho, which was never meant to be autonomously assembled.  but it's not a bad idea to start practicing a bit on the ISS, is it not?

...[Jim's] argument is not based on whether or not we should use larger modules, itís based on the fact that we shouldnít use large modules because currently we donít have a vehicle to do so. And because we currently donít have that vehicle [he's] saying we should never use larger modules and acting as if itís some law of nature. But the argument really is if we did have a HLV would it be cheaper to launch larger modules versus smaller ones....

I think you're correct.  It's still about the "biggest smallest chunk".  The HLV proponents are arguing in essence but not in totality, "build it and they will come".  To a certain extent, this was done with the shuttle, so there is some precedent, I'd say, for the argument's validity.  But, they initially basically lied about the shuttle's costs, and now it seems to be priced out of the market in many ways.  Plus we never took advantage of the now lost ability to make more of them.

So what is the best module size these days?

Jim does have the tendency to avoid certain discussions.  Kinda like I avoid calculus....

...But we've already known for decades that a microgravity environment is deleterious to human health. Time to move on!

Wrong conclusion.

One of the problems with heavy lift is what do you do after you have put up your space station?...

You keep going.  Keep building.  Start sending up colonists.  Etc.  I know, romance without finance... yada yada.  Just sayin'.
Sometimes I just flat out don't get it.

Offline khallow

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So what is the best module size these days?

Glancing at this thread, I think Jim could have worded it better. The idea seems to me that the economy of scale of larger pieces (by volume) is less important than sizing the pieces so that they can fit on multiple launch vehicles. So, given the ISS, it'd have been better to size the pieces at a fairing size of, say, 4 meters, so that they could be launched not just on the Shuttle, but also other vehicles such as Titan IV, Proton, Ariane 5, or EELVs. It also means modifying the construction program so you don't need a particular vehicle present in order to assemble the station.
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Offline mong'

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3. I think one of the things needed is more volume.  If we're ever going to be building "motherships" and "colonies", we need volume.  I guess it's still future games, tho.

Volume is not as important as mass, in the end mass determines what you can do. whether you're talking about a space station or a colony.

what would be useful in this debate is an estimate of how much the "assembly intensive" approach to the design of the ISS increased development costs and mass compared to that required to build a couple of big chunks with similar capability.

if it's more than that required to build an "affordable" HLV like shuttle-C (recent estimates put it around $15Bn)then the HLV approach makes sense, if it's not Jim is probably right that the best approach would have been to make sure the modules could be launched with several different ELV.

But even then an accurate assessment of launch costs for the two approaches would be required.

Something else to keep in mind, one of the benefits of the Shuttle-C approach (or similar LV) would have been to give us an operational (and somewhat proven) HLV, perhaps making a moon or mars program more affordable and more likely to appear since the dev cost of the LV would be removed from the program.

anyway I don't think this debate can be settled without hard numbers and a detailed study (which I'll assume don't exist)

Offline Jim

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ISS? Been there, done that! Decommission it after 2015 so that NASA can focus on beyond LEO missions.

Marcel F. Williams

Quit your childlike drive by postings.  Once again, you show you have no credibility.  Go post some where else.   But then again you will get the same response.

Moon?   Been there, done that!

Others. just ignore the crazy man behind curtain

Sorry Jim. But I don't think whining is a very rational response.   If you disagree with someone then you would try to articulate your disagreement in a rational manner.


Look in a mirror.  Your comments are no better.  Also, you ignore rational comments and keep bringing up the asi nine global warming comment wrt hydrocarbons.

Offline Jim

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But with NASAís intention to build a new HLV and if they were to decided to build another space station it might be more economical to launch several large modules than for them all to be small.


"might be" is not valid argument.  There are more costs than just launching large modules.  There has to be facilities to build them and test them on the ground.

Offline manboy

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Possible work for HLV :-
Developing a new unprofitable HLV does not [make sense].
Well that's what the president has mandated.

Possible work for HLV :-

All of these can be done without an HLV or replaced by something that can. If we already had a profitable HLV, or if we had a profitable smaller launch vehicle with a triple core HLV variant (say EELV Phase 1 or Atlas Phase 2), then it might make sense to use it for such things. Developing a new unprofitable HLV does not.
But it requires a crazy amount of launches. The Augustine Report concluded it would take three Ares Vs and one Ares I for a Mars mission, how many launches do you think would be required without a HLV?


So what is the best module size these days?

Glancing at this thread, I think Jim could have worded it better. The idea seems to me that the economy of scale of larger pieces (by volume) is less important than sizing the pieces so that they can fit on multiple launch vehicles. So, given the ISS, it'd have been better to size the pieces at a fairing size of, say, 4 meters, so that they could be launched not just on the Shuttle, but also other vehicles such as Titan IV, Proton, Ariane 5, or EELVs. It also means modifying the construction program so you don't need a particular vehicle present in order to assemble the station.
This has got me started thinking that maybe small modules aren't bad but it would be nice to be able to launch multiple ones on a single HLV but I guess that's kind of off topic.

3. I think one of the things needed is more volume.  If we're ever going to be building "motherships" and "colonies", we need volume.  I guess it's still future games, tho.
anyway I don't think this debate can be settled without hard numbers and a detailed study (which I'll assume don't exist)
I'm also thinking the same thing.


But with NASAís intention to build a new HLV and if they were to decided to build another space station it might be more economical to launch several large modules than for them all to be small.


"might be" is not valid argument.  There are more costs than just launching large modules.  There has to be facilities to build them and test them on the ground.
There are actually still some facilities (Vertical assembly, vibration...) left over from the Saturn V days.
« Last Edit: 06/18/2010 07:19 PM by manboy »
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Offline FinalFrontier

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I think what we are getting at with these "myth" discussions is the core of a major question. Therefore, I submit we start the following thread:

Debate: Do we or need an HLV, or will we in the next 25 years?

I will let someone else start this thread.


As to the topic of the OP:
This is a fascinating question. I should like to hear Ross or Chuck weigh in.
« Last Edit: 06/18/2010 07:13 PM by FinalFrontier »
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Offline FinalFrontier

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Possible work for HLV :-
Developing a new unprofitable HLV does not [make sense].
Well that's what the president has mandated.

Possible work for HLV :-

All of these can be done without an HLV or replaced by something that can. If we already had a profitable HLV, or if we had a profitable smaller launch vehicle with a triple core HLV variant (say EELV Phase 1 or Atlas Phase 2), then it might make sense to use it for such things. Developing a new unprofitable HLV does not.
But it requires a crazy amount of launches. The Augustine Report concluded it would take three Ares Vs and one Ares I for a Mars mission, how many launches do you think would be required without a HLV?

True. It would take, alot. Although I am not sure Acom included a revolutionary propulsions system such as VASMIR into their discussions, one large enough for a reasonably sized mars stack would likely require an HLV.

My 2 cents.
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Offline mmeijeri

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Well that's what the president has mandated.

Not quite. Five years from now he could say let's build EELV Phase 1 as the HLV and still be true to his word. But in any event, I don't have to agree with Obama...

But it requires a crazy amount of launches. The Augustine Report concluded it would take three Ares Vs and one Ares I for a Mars mission, how many launches do you think would be required without a HLV?

The problem with HLV and Mars is that it would take a crazy amount of dollars... As Rand Simberg puts it so succinctly: we need cheap lift more than we need heavy lift. And a reduction in costs by one or even two orders of magnitude is believed to be technically possible.

But this is getting away from the current myth and Andrew's list of items. Most of those could easily be done with EELVs without needing unreasonable numbers of launches.
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Offline manboy

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Well that's what the president has mandated.

Not quite. Five years from now he could say let's build EELV Phase 1 as the HLV and still be true to his word. But in any event, I don't have to agree with Obama...

But it requires a crazy amount of launches. The Augustine Report concluded it would take three Ares Vs and one Ares I for a Mars mission, how many launches do you think would be required without a HLV?

The problem with HLV and Mars is that it would take a crazy amount of dollars... As Rand Simberg puts it so succinctly: we need cheap lift more than we need heavy lift. And a reduction in costs by one or even two orders of magnitude is believed to be technically possible.

But this is getting away from the current myth and Andrew's list of items. Most of those could easily be done with EELVs without needing unreasonable numbers of launches.
I think some of them might be done with EELV Heavies but they would probably pushing the rocket's lift capabilities.
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Offline mmeijeri

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All of these could be launched in manageable pieces. 25-30mT is a lot of mass and 7mx30m is a lot of volume.
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Offline A_M_Swallow

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One of the problems with heavy lift is what do you do after you have put up your space station?

Possible work for HLV :-

LEO spacestation
EML spacestation
large LEO propellant depot
large EML propellant depot
Mars Transfer Vehicle
Large SEP tug
Moon Base
Phobos Base
Mars Base
large telescope
mining equipment

Repeated - coach for tourists and/or space miners

And where are you going to get all the money for those payloads?  You've already spent billions on your HLV, you probably don't have a lot of $$$ lying around for space stations, moon bases, mars bases, telescopes, etc.

An alternative way of wording the questions is:
Will NASA get the money to go to Mars?
Big rockets vs. medium sized rockets - which is cheaper?  Which is quicker?

Also can all the hardware be developed on a budget of $2 - $3 billion a year?  Possibly one or two machines at a time.

Edit:typing
« Last Edit: 06/18/2010 11:04 PM by A_M_Swallow »

Offline pathfinder_01

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One of the problems with heavy lift is what do you do after you have put up your space station?

Possible work for HLV :-

LEO spacestation
EML spacestation
large LEO propellant depot
large EML propellant depot
Mars Transfer Vehicle
Large SEP tug
Moon Base
Phobos Base
Mars Base
large telescope
mining equipment

Repeated - coach for tourists and/or space miners

And where are you going to get all the money for those payloads?  You've already spent billions on your HLV, you probably don't have a lot of $$$ lying around for space stations, moon bases, mars bases, telescopes, etc.

An alternative may of wording the questions is:
Will NASA get the money to go to Mars?
Big rockets vs. medium sized rockets - which is cheaper?  Which is quicker?

Also can all the hardware be developed on a budget of $2 - $3 billion a year?  Possibly one or two machines at a time.

The quicker cheaper method is using what is existing and not building a dedicated HLV. If you must build a HLV then build one that shares facilities with another currently operating rocket. Use funds for spacecraft and spacecraft only. At current costs I really donít see BEO spaceflight as being something as affordable as LEO spaceflight. I think we are going to be doing lunar and\or Martian sorties first then perhaps going to a lunar base.  I think at best we are talking about one-two BEO flights a year and thus really not enough to justify having its own dedicated launcher.  I think as long as a mission can be done in 4 flights that are not too unreasonable.

When you tie exploration in with an HLV you risk the HLV eating your budget, you risk loss of the program with any loss or cancelation of the HLV and you are less able to take advantage of new technology. For instance if a new lower cost rocket is built you can move a 20-30ton payload to it, If your payload requires an HLV then you can only move to another HLV(and it is hard enough to fund one HLV). 


Offline DLR

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Isn't the lesson learnt from the ISS that it would be cheaper and easier to assemble a station that size / mass with four or five launches of a heavy-lift launch vehicle - if there was one?

I think this is indisputable. A HLV would have allowed for fewer, larger and heavier modules ... assembly would have been easier as well. Actual scientific research aboard the station could have started earlier.

The problem is that there is no operational heavy lift launch vehicle and designing a new one would cost billions of dollars.

Then again the shuttle flights alone needed to assemble the ISS probably came at a cost of about 14 to 16 Billion USD. Perhaps this money would have been better spent on the development of a dedicated heavy lift launch vehicle and a simpler space station later on ... unlike the Shuttle a HLV would have been useful for other mission scenarios (exploration) as well.

But it's all history. The station is there now, orbiting the Earth. It may not have been constructed in the most economical manner there is, but what has been done has been done.

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Offline manboy

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One of the problems with heavy lift is what do you do after you have put up your space station?

Possible work for HLV :-

LEO spacestation
EML spacestation
large LEO propellant depot
large EML propellant depot
Mars Transfer Vehicle
Large SEP tug
Moon Base
Phobos Base
Mars Base
large telescope
mining equipment

Repeated - coach for tourists and/or space miners

And where are you going to get all the money for those payloads?  You've already spent billions on your HLV, you probably don't have a lot of $$$ lying around for space stations, moon bases, mars bases, telescopes, etc.

An alternative may of wording the questions is:
Will NASA get the money to go to Mars?
Big rockets vs. medium sized rockets - which is cheaper?  Which is quicker?

Also can all the hardware be developed on a budget of $2 - $3 billion a year?  Possibly one or two machines at a time.

The quicker cheaper method is using what is existing and not building a dedicated HLV. If you must build a HLV then build one that shares facilities with another currently operating rocket. Use funds for spacecraft and spacecraft only. At current costs I really donít see BEO spaceflight as being something as affordable as LEO spaceflight. I think we are going to be doing lunar and\or Martian sorties first then perhaps going to a lunar base.  I think at best we are talking about one-two BEO flights a year and thus really not enough to justify having its own dedicated launcher.  I think as long as a mission can be done in 4 flights that are not too unreasonable.

When you tie exploration in with an HLV you risk the HLV eating your budget, you risk loss of the program with any loss or cancelation of the HLV and you are less able to take advantage of new technology. For instance if a new lower cost rocket is built you can move a 20-30ton payload to it, If your payload requires an HLV then you can only move to another HLV(and it is hard enough to fund one HLV). 
It can only be done in four flights if you have a dedicated HLV, even with a Direct vehicle (carries a lower payload) you would need more and as stated above if you don't have any HLV than it takes a lot of flights for a Mars mission.

Purely because of the size of a HLV I don't know if it could share all of the same launch facilities as a smaller rocket.
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Offline SpacexULA

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For me this is why I don't support HLV.

Let's change history a little.  In 1986, after the Challenger disaster, NASA had decided that Shuttle was a flawed vehicle, and had canceled the program.  So by 1990 the US has developed a HLV based solely off the STS sytem minus the Orbiter (J-130).  The US could now lift 70MT to LEO per launch vehcile.

Because of work force issues post Shuttle retirement, the launch rate would need to be kept high to maintain staff, and to amortalize the development costs over as many launches as possible.  Let's give our HLV the Shuttle launch rate (even though this vehicle could launch more often than the shuttle)

All design work at the time that had been done on ST Freedom would have had to been scrapped, and a new ISS would have been designed, using 70MT modules.  Assuming it has the same mass as the American Segment of the ISS, it would have been launched in 4-5 flights.  2 flights would have provided enough logistics for a year.

So it's now 1991.  What is the HLV going to launch now?  We have 490MT worth of launch capacity to fill this year.  Unfortunately NASA only launched 80MT worth of science payloads that year, so that's 1.2 flights.  NASA could now take all the EELV work that didn't go into polar orbit that year, that's another 2 launches (and an early death for the EELV fleet).

We still have 3 launches for this year.  Let's go ahead and launch all the science payloads for the next 2 years on these 3 launches.

The HLV is now payloadless, is attempting to kill the EELV program in it's crib, and is now having to lay off workforce. 

HLV is great if you have a huge science budget to develop payloads, but there has not been a time in history where a small HLV (70MT class) would not run out of work fast. 
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Exactly.  It would be great if there WAS money for all those payloads to be launched, but there isn't! And there won't be for a while. The Shuttle infrastructure takes a SIZEABLE portion of the HSF budget. It'd be fine if NASA had a considerably larger budget, but it doesn't. And I'm not going to squeeze my eyes shut and press my hands against my ears and keep repeating: "One percent for space! One percent for space!" As much as I would LOVE to see that happen, the general populace isn't going to give NASA more money just because NASA's chosen architecture makes the most sense only with a few billion more. I mean, goodness, NASA probably could do some really amazing things with a substantially bigger budget, but I am not willing to just give up on exploration just because we can't afford both an HLV and its payloads.

The national debt hasn't been decreasing, these last years. We're going to have to be a lot leaner and meaner to get things done.
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Offline DLR

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Well, for a HLV to make sense you need a real space exploration programme. If you want to continue doing what they do in space today don't build it.

If the US had developed a HLV in 1991, the vehicle could have been used for deep space missions after station construction.

As for synergies between medium-lift and heavy-lift, that depends on the design you chose.
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Offline mmeijeri

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The obvious payload would have been propellant which is very cheap, but only if you had reusable spacecraft or you still couldn't afford a high flight rate. But if you're going to launch enough propellant to keep an HLV busy, then you'll be launching enough propellant to make a small RLV feasible. That would be much, much cheaper, so even that wouldn't make sense. The only way I see an HLV working is if it is a three core variant of a commercial single core launcher and even then it is neither urgent nor terribly useful.

The only way the Shuttle stack would have worked is if they had succeeded in their original goal of making it a cheap 20-25mT launcher.
« Last Edit: 06/19/2010 05:30 PM by mmeijeri »
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Offline Archibald

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Quote
All design work at the time that had been done on ST Freedom would have had to been scrapped

Big problem: ESA and JAXA had been "locked" into the program from the mid-80's. With their Colombus and Kibo modules.
That's also the reason why Freedom / Alpha / ISS was never cancelled: don't anger the international partners !

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