Author Topic: Orbital ATK Advocates Cislunar Outpost as America's NEXT Step in Human Space Exp  (Read 15920 times)

Offline flyright

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Perhaps I missed something. The article states,"The initial habitat concept includes pre-positioning a Cygnus-derived module in lunar orbit".  How does this evolve to a station at EML-1 or EML-2, or is that implied by the term cislunar?

Online woods170

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Orbital ATK Render below.
On a side note: that is one p*ss-poor render of Orion. I won't even bother listing all the flaws.

Online WBY1984

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Presumably the bill for this is supposed to come out of the NASA budget?

Online jgoldader

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It's an outpost in search of a mission, for a capsule in search of a mission, launched by a rocket in search of a mission.

(As always with me, this is not a criticism of the talented and dedicated engineers, for whom I have great respect.)
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Offline Endeavour_01

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It's an outpost in search of a mission, for a capsule in search of a mission, launched by a rocket in search of a mission.

This doesn't make any sense. Having an outpost in lunar orbit that can be used to test deep space life support and be used as a staging area for lunar surface and hopefully Mars missions is very valuable. It would have as much, if not more, of a "mission" than ISS. Plans are now being proposed to actually use SLS/Orion to good effect. This framework also leverages commercial investment. Can we stop pooh poohing everything that doesn't have to do with another rocket company and acknowledge the possible benefits of the Orbital ATK design?
I cheer for both NASA and commercial space. For SLS, Orion, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Dragon, Starliner, Cygnus and all the rest!
I was blessed to see the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-99. The launch was beyond amazing. My 8-year old mind was blown. I remember the noise and seeing the exhaust pour out of the shuttle as it lifted off. I remember staring and watching it soar while it was visible in the clear blue sky. It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I will never forget it.

Offline SimonFD

It's an outpost in search of a mission, for a capsule in search of a mission, launched by a rocket in search of a mission.

This doesn't make any sense. Having an outpost in lunar orbit that can be used to test deep space life support and be used as a staging area for lunar surface and hopefully Mars missions is very valuable. It would have as much, if not more, of a "mission" than ISS. Plans are now being proposed to actually use SLS/Orion to good effect. This framework also leverages commercial investment. Can we stop pooh poohing everything that doesn't have to do with another rocket company and acknowledge the possible benefits of the Orbital ATK design?

I think I'd be more convinced after seeing more detail of the intended purpose and capability of the proposed outpost. Also, could this outpost be built and serviced without Orion/SLS?
Space is big! Really big! You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is! I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space. Listen............

Offline Rocket Science

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Cygnus as a Lunar outpost... Hmm, let me... Add some ascent engines to the sides of it and a descent stage below it... Now we got something! As it sits now this proposal 50 years after Eagle landed so we have have a look at the Moon from afar is just a typical job creation program for Orion/SLS and something to do with my backyard telescope. Want to test deep space hardware, sure... Leave the astros at home, they just add complexity and cost...

Some along these concepts:
http://www.astrotecture.com/Moon_files/SAE-2009-01-2366.FINAL_2.pdf
« Last Edit: 05/20/2016 01:28 PM by Rocket Science »
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Offline gospacex

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It's an outpost in search of a mission, for a capsule in search of a mission, launched by a rocket in search of a mission.

(As always with me, this is not a criticism of the talented and dedicated engineers, for whom I have great respect.)

And proposed by a company (ATK) which is most proficient at finding govt contracts, not creating something economically viable on its own.
« Last Edit: 05/20/2016 01:21 PM by gospacex »

Offline Endeavour_01

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And proposed by a company (ATK) which is most proficient at finding govt contracts, not creating something economically viable on its own.

I guess SpaceX would also fall under that category since they didn't get Dragon (or F9 to be honest) off the ground without government contracts (COTS, CRS)

As it sits now this proposal 50 years after Eagle landed so we have have a look at the Moon from afar is just a typical job creation program for Orion/SLS and something to do with my backyard telescope. Want to test deep space hardware, sure... Leave the astros at home, they just add complexity and cost...

So unless something lands on another celestial body it is useless? I don't think so. There are many potential applications for this outpost beyond just "looking at the moon" that are mentioned in the article.

Testing deep space hardware meant for human habitation with humans is extremely necessary. There is a reason Dragon 2 and Starliner will have manned test flights instead of immediately going into action after the unmanned flight.

A base like this is ideally suited to test long lasting life support systems in an environment similar to what a MTV would have to endure. It is also far away enough for the astronauts to be semi-autonomous while also retaining a capability of quick Earth return.

It is ironic to see people complain, "SLS doesn't have a mission," and then complain with equal vigor when proposals are made to give it missions.


I think I'd be more convinced after seeing more detail of the intended purpose and capability of the proposed outpost. Also, could this outpost be built and serviced without Orion/SLS?

It looks like it could be built via SLS/FH launches with SLS delivering crew or a lunar lander and FH or Vulcan delivering supplies. Sounds like an excellent way to use a model that has been proven to work to expand manned space flight into cis-lunar space.
I cheer for both NASA and commercial space. For SLS, Orion, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Dragon, Starliner, Cygnus and all the rest!
I was blessed to see the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-99. The launch was beyond amazing. My 8-year old mind was blown. I remember the noise and seeing the exhaust pour out of the shuttle as it lifted off. I remember staring and watching it soar while it was visible in the clear blue sky. It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I will never forget it.

Offline Rocket Science

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Give it a rest you don't need humans in space to test hardware. Just send the hardware...That's why it's called a "hardware test"... ::)
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Offline notsorandom

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It appears to be a less capable version of the ISS, but in a far more remote (and expensive) location.

How does this help us get to Mars, which is NASA's current internal goal?
A cis-lunar habitat capable of long duration autonomous flight is basically a Mars transfer vehicle without a propulsion system. Gaining experience building and operating a habitat in cis-lunar space directly feeds into knowing how to build and operate a Mars transfer vehicle.

What I am concerned about is a lack of a detailed plan.  And by plan I mean a detailed list of technologies and techniques that need to be developed and proven before going to Mars, and a rough budget for accomplishing that in a number of different ways.

And instead of this piecemeal development approach, the President and Congress should agree on the overall plan and the initial funding that will start it.

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ISS is not as good of an analog. It needs resupply every few weeks and is in a different space environment.

Actually it doesn't need to be resupplied every few weeks, as the Orbital & SpaceX CRS accidents showed.  They can store quite a bit of supplies on the ISS.  Plus you can park cargo modules full of supplies at the ISS just like they propose for this hab.

I'm not sure I understand the ROI of this yet - what is being tested that can only be done in this way.
You're just not going to get a detailed plan for anything. There are several historical examples of a fully detailed and costed plan being presented and the sticker shock killing it. The irony is then NASA got funded for roughly the same amount over the next decade yet didn't get anywhere. This habitat is about building capability. Which is a smarter way to navigate the politics. It is easy to get people to agree to smaller things at a time. Eventually all of those adds up to the capability to do something big.

It would be helpful to look at the visiting vehicle schedule and see just how often ISS gets a supply ship. (http://www.nasa.gov/feature/visiting-vehicle-launches-arrivals-and-departures) Though the station can ride out a halt in deliveries for a few months they still need a pretty steady cadence of resupply to keep that margin and remain operational. Being in LEO the station gets other benefits too like better communications, more benign thermal and radiation environments, and quick return capability for the crew.

A Mars transfer vehicle will not have those luxuries. A habitat in cis-lunar space though can be resupplied more often than a Mars vehicle, though not nearly as much as ISS, and if needed the crew can still return in just a few days. The other difficulties deep space presents will still be there. Longer and longer duration flights can be tested in very similar conditions to interplanetary space before having to leave the Earth-Moon system. Once a crew can be kept alive long enough to do a Mars mission in cis-lunar space the same hardware, techniques, and lessons learned will with very minor modification keep a crew alive to Mars and back.

Online jgoldader

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Can we stop pooh poohing everything that doesn't have to do with another rocket company and acknowledge the possible benefits of the Orbital ATK design?

Actually, I was quite taken by the Mars orbital module Lockheed-Martin recently proposed, and said so in the appropriate thread.  It would enable exploration of Phobos and Deimos, which I believe to be much more achievable destinations (for a variety of reasons) than the surface itself.

The cis-lunar hab has no well-defined mission.  So far, I've seen greenhouse, safe house, and as you noted, a testbed for deep space life support and staging area for lunar surface and hopefully Mars missions.  There's nothing wrong with any of those, but I've yet to see NASA articulate a case for them or Congress appropriate money.  And there has to be focus, because you're not getting all of those things in 1-3 Cygnus modules.
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Online TrevorMonty

Given 2020 delivery date, commercial LV would most likely be Atlas or OA SRB based next generation LV.

HSF missions don't need to involve landing on a surface to be useful or interesting. All of our commercial and most exploration space assets are not sitting on surfaces.


Offline Endeavour_01

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Give it a rest you don't need humans in space to test hardware. Just send the hardware...That's why it's called a "hardware test"... ::)

Well given how much maintenance ISS requires only giving hab modules unmanned tests before going to Mars might not be the best option. Then of course there is the benefit of the astronauts learning how to maintain said systemx without as much help from Earth.

A cis-lunar station can be used to great effect for both lunar exploration and further expeditions BEO (not to mention expanding the commercial space sector beyond LEO).

Can we please give the "If it isn't made by SpaceX it shouldn't happen" attitude a rest?
I cheer for both NASA and commercial space. For SLS, Orion, Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, Dragon, Starliner, Cygnus and all the rest!
I was blessed to see the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-99. The launch was beyond amazing. My 8-year old mind was blown. I remember the noise and seeing the exhaust pour out of the shuttle as it lifted off. I remember staring and watching it soar while it was visible in the clear blue sky. It was one of the greatest moments of my life and I will never forget it.

Online abaddon

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And proposed by a company (ATK) which is most proficient at finding govt contracts, not creating something economically viable on its own.
I guess SpaceX
Why are you bringing up SpaceX (twice now, the first time with a veiled reference) in an Orbital ATK thread?  How about we attempt to discuss the proposal on its own merits, without throwing in straw men to knock down?
Can we please give the "If it isn't made by SpaceX it shouldn't happen" attitude a rest?
And now a third time.  To quote someone else, "please give it a rest".
« Last Edit: 05/20/2016 02:26 PM by abaddon »

Offline Coastal Ron

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A spacestation at EML-2 (or EML-1) is where the Mars Transfer Vehicles (MTV) return to. Only small capsules have heat shields able to perform Earth reentry, so the rest of a very expensive vehicle would be thrown away. An EML-1/2 to LEO flight needs more propellant than the trip back from Mars.

Actually I wasn't advocating for a particular transportation architecture, or route to/from Mars.

My question was about what we were supposed to be testing at a cislunar habitat that we can't learn at our LEO space station.

Also, there is a question of "when" such cislunar testing is needed, and whether it's really the most important technology or technique that NASA should be using it's budget on.

For instance, if this cislunar hab is supposed to be testing hardware for a trip to Mars, have we finished developing that hardware?  Do we have an ECLSS system that can last for years without breaking down, or ready to test one in a real life environment?  I didn't think we did, and if we don't, then spending money on the cislunar hab seems presumptuous.

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The MTV can then be inspected and serviced at the EML-2 spacestation permitting reuse. Chemical MTV are then be provisioned, refuelled and sent back to Mars with a new crew. The SEP tugs given a new cargo and propellant and sent on their way.

p.s. The spacestation would spend the rest of its time providing similar services to the lunar landers.

Yes, sure, a transportation hub at every destination makes a lot of sense, and I've advocated that setting up such a system should be our highest priority, prior to going to Mars or returning to the Moon.

But again, are we ready for the level of spending required to support such an asset?

Do we have political support for such an effort?

And how much should NASA "own" of such a system?

These are all questions that MUST be answered before we start committing to spending $Billions of U.S. Taxpayer money, yet our politicians are unable to even acknowledge any areas of agreement on a long-term plan.

That's a bad sign.
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

Offline notsorandom

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Give it a rest you don't need humans in space to test hardware. Just send the hardware...That's why it's called a "hardware test"... ::)
You may be interested in what happened to the Urine Processor Assembly on the ISS. It worked perfectly on the ground. It worked fine in space too until the astronauts started using it. Then it got clogged by calcium crystals. Turns out that the astronauts have more calcium in their urine due to bone loss. If that had happened on the way to Mars they would have run out of water if they couldn't have aborted and returned in time. It could have been tested thoroughly in space without humans present. They even could have sent up plenty of urine from Earth to run through the thing. Yet they never would have caught that problem until is got used in space by humans.

Online abaddon

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You may be interested in what happened to the Urine Processor Assembly on the ISS. It worked perfectly on the ground. It worked fine in space too until the astronauts started using it. Then it got clogged by calcium crystals. Turns out that the astronauts have more calcium in their urine due to bone loss. If that had happened on the way to Mars they would have run out of water if they couldn't have aborted and returned in time. It could have been tested thoroughly in space without humans present. They even could have sent up plenty of urine from Earth to run through the thing. Yet they never would have caught that problem until is got used in space by humans.
That's a great example of something that requires humans in space to test.  Of course, that example is something that was caught in LEO, on the ISS.  I'm wondering what things (aside from the radiation environment being different) are different about cislunar space that would require humans to test, though.  Seems to me like almost all of the challenges that are separate from LEO issues could be tested robotically.

Offline AegeanBlue

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Skylab's main scientific contribution was turn sun observation into the science of Heliophysics. The ISS is very active as an Earth Observation platform, taking advantage of cheap access and relatively high bandwidth though shadows are an issue on the 51 degree orbit and anything to the north and south of that is invisible. I am pretty sure that if we build this or a similar habitat we can stoke it with enough moon and sun observing sensors to make it a scientific bonanza. It would also be great to see how stored food reacts to galactic and solar radiation: Before we send people to Mars let's make sure that the food does not spoil on the way back.

There are tons of missions that can be put on the outpost. The ISS is still getting new sensors (e.g. CATS) and new experiments today. Some thing can happen on this outpost, send an awesome sensor 10 years after launch.

Offline Coastal Ron

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You're just not going to get a detailed plan for anything. There are several historical examples of a fully detailed and costed plan being presented and the sticker shock killing it. The irony is then NASA got funded for roughly the same amount over the next decade yet didn't get anywhere.

And this is the plan you are advocating for?

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This habitat is about building capability. Which is a smarter way to navigate the politics. It is easy to get people to agree to smaller things at a time. Eventually all of those adds up to the capability to do something big.

Well you just said it doesn't, and I'd be hard pressed to come up with any examples that prove this is the fastest and least costly path for doing anything.

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It would be helpful to look at the visiting vehicle schedule and see just how often ISS gets a supply ship. (http://www.nasa.gov/feature/visiting-vehicle-launches-arrivals-and-departures) Though the station can ride out a halt in deliveries for a few months they still need a pretty steady cadence of resupply to keep that margin and remain operational.

The margin can be whatever they want it to be.  Extra supplies = more money, and it also means less "freshness" in your supplies.  These can all be simulated in LEO by just docking one or more MPLM full of supplies.

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Being in LEO the station gets other benefits too like better communications, more benign thermal and radiation environments, and quick return capability for the crew.

Communications can be simulated by inserting delays using software - that is pretty cheap and easy.

Yes, thermal and radiation environments are different, but are we at a point where we're ready to test our solutions for long-term voyages?  I don't think so, since this cislunar hab will be made from the same designs we're using in LEO, so how is that any different?

As to "quick return capability for the crew", how is being 3-days away in cislunar space supposed to simulate being 100 days away on Mars?

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A Mars transfer vehicle will not have those luxuries. A habitat in cis-lunar space though can be resupplied more often than a Mars vehicle, though not nearly as much as ISS

We will be able to resupply a Mars vehicle, and a Mars colony, as much as we want.  Just send more supplies ahead, with, or after a mission starts.  A habitat in cislunar space does nothing to simulate supply situations for trips to Mars.

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...and if needed the crew can still return in just a few days.

Not on a trip to Mars, so a hab in cislunar space does nothing to simulate the chance of dying on a trip to Mars.  And people will die in space, so let's just forget about distance from help.

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The other difficulties deep space presents will still be there. Longer and longer duration flights can be tested in very similar conditions to interplanetary space before having to leave the Earth-Moon system. Once a crew can be kept alive long enough to do a Mars mission in cis-lunar space the same hardware, techniques, and lessons learned will with very minor modification keep a crew alive to Mars and back.

Yes, I've advocated for such capabilities, but as of today NASA has ZERO new technology to test beyond LEO.  None.

This Orbital ATK proposal is for aluminum enclosures, which we know are bad for radiation environments.  If we are going to go beyond LEO it should be with Bigelow type inflatables, or composite enclosures, since plastic is a much better radiation barrier and doesn't have the secondary radiation effects that aluminum does.

Do you see what I mean?
If we don't continuously lower the cost to access space, how are we ever going to afford to expand humanity out into space?

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