Author Topic: What could be done with a 50mt to LEO LV in HSF exploration in the next 10 yrs?  (Read 18658 times)

Offline AlexCam

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Given the state of analysis on the SLS and budgetary constraints, if NASA were to opt for one of the sensible options left - Phase 1 upgrade of Delta IV or Atlas V to 40-50mt to LEO variants, what could NASA potentially do with that vehicle?

Circumlunar flights? Lunar orbital flights? Lagrange point flights? An actual NEO mission?

Offline rklaehn

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Given the state of analysis on the SLS and budgetary constraints, if NASA were to opt for one of the sensible options left - Phase 1 upgrade of Delta IV or Atlas V to 40-50mt to LEO variants, what could NASA potentially do with that vehicle?

Circumlunar flights? Lunar orbital flights? Lagrange point flights? An actual NEO mission?

With a 40-50t to LEO launcher, there is no reason whatsoever why you shouldn't be able to do a moon landing. If you want to avoid propellant depots (we can't have NASA develop new technologies after all), you would probably launch the lander and the manned spacecraft separately and rendezvous in low lunar orbit or in EML1/2. The lander would use a slow but efficient weak stability boundary trajectory, whereas the manned capsule would use a fast direct transfer like apollo did.

But that would not create enough pork in certain congressional districts, and that is the real purpose of NASA. The whole flying to space thing is just incidental.
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Offline DLR

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Lagrange Points, NEOs, Lunar Surface, Phobos, maybe even Mars surface.

Offline john smith 19

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With a 40-50t to LEO launcher, there is no reason whatsoever why you shouldn't be able to do a moon landing. If you want to avoid propellant depots (we can't have NASA develop new technologies after all), you would probably launch the lander and the manned spacecraft separately and rendezvous in low lunar orbit or in EML1/2. The lander would use a slow but efficient weak stability boundary trajectory, whereas the manned capsule would use a fast direct transfer like apollo did.

But that would not create enough pork in certain congressional districts, and that is the real purpose of NASA. The whole flying to space thing is just incidental.

Exactly right. That would slice the pork pretty thinly.

I'd heard Spacex talk of doing an "Apollo 8" (actual orbits rather than a once 1/2 loop around the dark side) mission with Falcon Heavy and ULA do have this "Phase 2" evolution up to 50mT range but I had thought a landing, even with multiple launches would not not be possible.
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Offline DLR

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Okay, Mars could definitely not be done in the next ten years. But in principle it should be possible to design a Mars mission using 50t chunks.

Offline AlexCam

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...but I had thought a landing, even with multiple launches would not not be possible.

Why? The N1 (Soviet lunar rocket) had a designed maximum TLI capacity of 23mt. Their minimal capacity design still would have practically worked for a landing. That would be in the range of a single Atlas V Phase 1 as well.

Offline Proponent

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With a 40-50t to LEO launcher, there is no reason whatsoever why you shouldn't be able to do a moon landing....

But that would not create enough pork in certain congressional districts....

Exactly right. That would slice the pork pretty thinly.

I would think that spending $X billion dollars on, say, this kind of moon mission would generate about the same amount of pork as spending the same amount on, say, SLS.  Either way, most of the money is going to go to paying people's salaries.  I would think the hard part is moving the pork from where it is now and has been for many years to somewhere else at a time when actually accomplishing something in space does not seem to be a national priority.

P.S.  On reflection, I need to back off a bit from my claim that all pork is created equal.  Because of the structure of the Electoral College, seniority, and other factors, some kinds of spending will generate more pork value per dollar than other kinds.  But still, spending federal money always makes somebody happy; the trick is to harness that happiness re-directing spending.
« Last Edit: 07/29/2011 09:41 AM by Proponent »

Offline AlexCam

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Lagrange Points, NEOs, Lunar Surface, Phobos, maybe even Mars surface.

Let's keep it simple. How do you think a lunar orbital or Lagrange Point mission would look like with a 50mt (let's say 15-20mt to escape velocity) vehicle would look like? Who will provide the beyond-LEO spacecraft?

For a NEO mission we definitely need orbital rendezvous or is there any alternative (e.g. crew of 2 only)?

Offline DLR

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Orbital rendezvous isn't that hard. The only problem is launch rate. In the US, they don't have experience in launching two rockets in quick succession from the same pad.

At the height of Soviet space activity in the 1980s, the Russians were launching three Soyuz per week from the same pad!

Offline rklaehn

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Lagrange Points, NEOs, Lunar Surface, Phobos, maybe even Mars surface.

Let's keep it simple. How do you think a lunar orbital or Lagrange Point mission would look like with a 50mt (let's say 15-20mt to escape velocity) vehicle would look like? Who will provide the beyond-LEO spacecraft?

For a NEO mission we definitely need orbital rendezvous or is there any alternative (e.g. crew of 2 only)?

No political constraints?

1. to enable independence from the launch vehicle, at least two launch providers are used (probably SpaceX and ULA). So you don't have to stand down for years if there is an accident with one launcher. Nasa defines an interface to the launch vehicle and gives a fixed price per launch.

2. Yes, you do need some kind of orbital rendezvous. But what's wrong with that? We have been doing orbital rendezvous for many decades, and are doing it right now with ISS. If we can't do that we might as well pack up and go home.

3. Even without propellant depots, you can build very large missions using EML1/2 as a staging point. You don't even need long term cryogenic storage because the bulk of the mass flies to EML1/2 using a single impulse weak stability boundary (aka belbruno) trajectory. In the most simple implementation the lander (in case of a moon landing) or the stage that pushes you from EML to escape would be using some kind of storable propellant. Since you are already at EML1/2 at the very edge of the earth gravity well, it does not take that much to push you over the edge.

As an example of what can be done using existing or near term available medium class launchers, here is a "flexible path" mission scenario that might be financed by some wealthy individual for less than a billion:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=15878.msg717396#msg717396
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Offline rklaehn

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Orbital rendezvous isn't that hard. The only problem is launch rate. In the US, they don't have experience in launching two rockets in quick succession from the same pad.

At the height of Soviet space activity in the 1980s, the Russians were launching three Soyuz per week from the same pad!

If you do the rendezvous at EML or low lunar orbit instead of in LEO, you don't have to have launches in quick succession. The unmanned part (lander, habitat, earth departure stage or whatever) launches to EML usnig a slow but efficient weak stability boundary trajectory. That takes about 100 days (but just a single pass through the van allen belt).

Then, when your lander or interplanetary spacecraft is ready at EML, you launch your dragon or orion or whatever using a quick trajectory. The spacecraft will need some delta-v to brake into EML from a quick trajectory, but both dragon and orion have enough delta-v.

The dragon or orion must be capable of supplying the crew for two weeks so that you can just go back to earth if the rendezvous fails for whatever reason.
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Offline AlexCam

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Orbital rendezvous isn't that hard. The only problem is launch rate. In the US, they don't have experience in launching two rockets in quick succession from the same pad.

At the height of Soviet space activity in the 1980s, the Russians were launching three Soyuz per week from the same pad!

Atlas V Phase 1 could be launched from several pads (currently it is just Pad 41?). The first phase in the evolution does not require a different launch pad structure. The old structure is fine.

Online Robotbeat

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Orbital rendezvous isn't that hard. The only problem is launch rate. In the US, they don't have experience in launching two rockets in quick succession from the same pad.
...
It's not a problem. It can be done. Heck, as some have mentioned here, it's possible to launch from Vandenberg to EML1/2 or even to ISS. There are also multiple pads at the Cape, with different launch vehicles.

It can definitely be done (especially if there are multiple integration facilities per pad... a definite possibility). Either way, it'd be wise to be able to utilize multiple different launch vehicles for most duties.

Launch rate really is only a problem if you have no low-boiloff capability whatsoever (an unrealistic scenario). Use hypergols (or soft cryo), and there's no problem... we're already doing it with ISS.
http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/65851main_spacehab.pdf
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Offline Norm38

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It's not just the mass, it's the cost.  We built ISS essentially at a rate of $600 Million / 25mT.  What if that same $600Mil had lifted 200mT instead?  I can think of a lot to do with that, such as assembling a ship to mars the same way we built ISS, only with half the modules and half the on orbit assembly.

Offline DLR

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Orbital rendezvous isn't that hard. The only problem is launch rate. In the US, they don't have experience in launching two rockets in quick succession from the same pad.
...
It's not a problem. It can be done. Heck, as some have mentioned here, it's possible to launch from Vandenberg to EML1/2 or even to ISS. There are also multiple pads at the Cape, with different launch vehicles.

It can definitely be done (especially if there are multiple integration facilities per pad... a definite possibility). Either way, it'd be wise to be able to utilize multiple different launch vehicles for most duties.

Launch rate really is only a problem if you have no low-boiloff capability whatsoever (an unrealistic scenario). Use hypergols (or soft cryo), and there's no problem... we're already doing it with ISS.
http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/65851main_spacehab.pdf

Yeah. And perhaps several Falcon Heavies could be launched from the same pad in pretty short notice, given that SpaceX's goal is to streamline launch operations in order to save costs.

A Mars mission could be flown using 12 Falcon Heavies or so ...

At $100M for a launch its a bargain.


... there is no reason for NASA to build an SLS. Existing heavy lift rockets (Delta IV Heavy and soon Atlas V Heavy and Falcon Heavy) should have sufficient capability for any kind of mission imaginable, if we dock stages in LEO.

Offline john smith 19

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P.S.  On reflection, I need to back off a bit from my claim that all pork is created equal.  Because of the structure of the Electoral College, seniority, and other factors, some kinds of spending will generate more pork value per dollar than other kinds.  But still, spending federal money always makes somebody happy; the trick is to harness that happiness re-directing spending.

Call me cynical but this sounds like the basis for a hilarious new board game.
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Offline john smith 19

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... there is no reason for NASA to build an SLS. Existing heavy lift rockets (Delta IV Heavy and soon Atlas V Heavy and Falcon Heavy) should have sufficient capability for any kind of mission imaginable, if we dock stages in LEO.

That's pretty much one of the conclusions of the Augustine Commission.
BFS. The worlds first Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured A380 sized aerospaceplane tail sitter capable of flying in Earth and Mars atmospheres. BFR. The worlds biggest Methane fueled FFORSC engined CFRP structured booster for BFS. First flight to Mars by end of 2022. Forward looking statements. T&C apply. Believe no one. Run your own numbers. So, you are going to Mars to start a better life? Picture it in your mind. Now say what it is out loud.

Offline deltaV

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... there is no reason for NASA to build an SLS. Existing heavy lift rockets (Delta IV Heavy and soon Atlas V Heavy and Falcon Heavy) should have sufficient capability for any kind of mission imaginable, if we dock stages in LEO.

That's pretty much one of the conclusions of the Augustine Commission.
Actually the Augustine Commission stated that existing rockets weren't good enough. They did however indicate that an intermediate sized rocket such as Atlas Phase 2 (and probably Falcon Heavy as well) would be sufficient.

Offline marsavian

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« Last Edit: 07/29/2011 03:37 PM by marsavian »

Offline baddux

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Warning: Optimistic novice speculation ahead!

Mars Direct with 4 ~50mt launches:

Launch 1: Mars ascent vehicle with empty tanks (propellant made on Mars), Dragon or similar capsule as payload. This launch two years before others.

Launch 2: Inflatable Mars HAB module size of BA-330 with crasher stage + heatshield attached, loaded with food + water and other needed stuff (BA 330 weights ~20mt). This could be launched 1-3 months before the next launch.

Launch 3: Inflatable Mars return vehicle (size of Sundancer module) + a crew capsule. This launch 0-30 days before the next launch.

Launch 4: Earth departure stage.

- 2 years before the crew leaves earth the MAV is sent to mars surface
- Mars hab module is sent to LEO
- Return hab + crew are sent to LEO. In orbit the capsule is docked to the return hab and these two docked to the Mars hab
- EDS is launched to LEO, once it's docked the crew capsule is returned back to earth
- In Mars orbit the two hab's are separated, the return vehicle stays in orbit
- When leaving, the capsule and earth return stage are connected to the return vehicle


Offline Warren Platts

Given the state of analysis on the SLS and budgetary constraints, if NASA were to opt for one of the sensible options left - Phase 1 upgrade of Delta IV or Atlas V to 40-50mt to LEO variants, what could NASA potentially do with that vehicle?

Circumlunar flights? Lunar orbital flights? Lagrange point flights? An actual NEO mission?

10 years would be enough time to prove up propellant depots, get a lander going and launch a series of human precursor missions to scout out a likely location for a Lunar base at one of the poles.
"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."--Leonardo Da Vinci

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Given the state of analysis on the SLS and budgetary constraints, if NASA were to opt for one of the sensible options left - Phase 1 upgrade of Delta IV or Atlas V to 40-50mt to LEO variants, what could NASA potentially do with that vehicle?

The baseline single-launch mission would be an MPLM with an SM-derived propulsion module to LLO.  With a double-launch, you could use a 'Plymouth Rock'-style Duo-MPCV configuration for extended duration and more mission equipment.  A baseline configuration would also enable the deployment, operation and support of an EML-1 space-lab (Bigelow Alpha-derived) with more-or-less existing and under-development crew and cargo transfer technology.

If you allow EOR assembly then the question becomes more like "How long do you want to spend assembling a mission stack?".  Three launches gives you a EOR-LOR-LOR-Direct descent lunar surface excursion architecture (assuming the funding of a lander).  A DRM-5-style Mars architecture is approximately 15 launches per Earth departure stack, maybe less than 50 in all per mission.  As Baddux points out, the less-complex Mars Direct/DRM-3 would probably be fewer than 10 launches per mission in total.


[edit]
Fixed typo
« Last Edit: 08/04/2011 12:22 PM by Ben the Space Brit »
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Offline Patchouli

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You could easily do an Apollo class lunar mission using two 50Mt LVs and EOR-EML1 rendezvous.
For a lander the best bet I say would be the DTAL Centaur derived lander.

With three or four you can do a Constellation class mission or do a long duration NEO mission with a BA330 hab and the SEV.

« Last Edit: 08/04/2011 07:33 AM by Patchouli »

Offline neilh

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... there is no reason for NASA to build an SLS. Existing heavy lift rockets (Delta IV Heavy and soon Atlas V Heavy and Falcon Heavy) should have sufficient capability for any kind of mission imaginable, if we dock stages in LEO.

That's pretty much one of the conclusions of the Augustine Commission.
Actually the Augustine Commission stated that existing rockets weren't good enough. They did however indicate that an intermediate sized rocket such as Atlas Phase 2 (and probably Falcon Heavy as well) would be sufficient.

From section 5.2.1 of the Augustine Report:

"If there were the capability to fuel propulsion stages in space, the single-largest mass launched would be considerably less than in the absence of in-space refueling.  The mass that must be launched to low-Earth orbit in the current NASA plan, without its fuel on board, is in the range of 25 to 40 mt, setting a notional lower limit on the size of the super heavy-lift launch vehicle if refueling is available."
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Offline boaorm

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Folks, one suggestion for this type of thread:

To ensure focus on discussing the theme as posted, may I suggest that use of the word "pork" is replaced by "politically viable" or similar wording? Clearly there are threads where the use of the word pork would be appropriate, so I do not suggest that Chris put the word on his profanity list...
 
(btw, spotted an "Incorrect" in one of Chris' posts the other day - funny)

-Petter

Online Robotbeat

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... there is no reason for NASA to build an SLS. Existing heavy lift rockets (Delta IV Heavy and soon Atlas V Heavy and Falcon Heavy) should have sufficient capability for any kind of mission imaginable, if we dock stages in LEO.

That's pretty much one of the conclusions of the Augustine Commission.
Actually the Augustine Commission stated that existing rockets weren't good enough. They did however indicate that an intermediate sized rocket such as Atlas Phase 2 (and probably Falcon Heavy as well) would be sufficient.

From section 5.2.1 of the Augustine Report:

"If there were the capability to fuel propulsion stages in space, the single-largest mass launched would be considerably less than in the absence of in-space refueling.  The mass that must be launched to low-Earth orbit in the current NASA plan, without its fuel on board, is in the range of 25 to 40 mt, setting a notional lower limit on the size of the super heavy-lift launch vehicle if refueling is available."
Interesting, so in the current plan (put together with Ares V as the primary launch vehicle) and with the capability for on-orbit refueling, current launch vehicles would be adequate, or evolutionary upgrades aty worse (like strap-ons on a DIVH). Says nothing about if the payloads could be smaller with another plan.
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Online Robotbeat

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Folks, one suggestion for this type of thread:

To ensure focus on discussing the theme as posted, may I suggest that use of the word "pork" is replaced by "politically viable" or similar wording? Clearly there are threads where the use of the word pork would be appropriate, so I do not suggest that Chris put the word on his profanity list...
 
(btw, spotted an "Incorrect" in one of Chris' posts the other day - funny)

-Petter
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Offline Jason Davies

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Yeah, let's censor that word ;D

Offline ChileVerde

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Folks, one suggestion for this type of thread:

To ensure focus on discussing the theme as posted, may I suggest that use of the word "pork" is replaced by "politically viable" or similar wording? Clearly there are threads where the use of the word pork would be appropriate, so I do not suggest that Chris put the word on his profanity list...
 
(btw, spotted an "Incorrect" in one of Chris' posts the other day - funny)

-Petter
Political correctness comes to NASASpaceflight.com ... Wonderful!

Well, nobody asked me, but I think that "pork" might be considered an odious subset of "politically viable." That is, pork is appropriated for solely political ends and produces nothing or little of other worth, while other politically viable appropriations might well have equal political value, but also are spent on goals judged worthwhile.  JSFC is an example of the latter -- a national goal was proclaimed, and politicians like LBJ saw to it that the goal was fulfilled with money going into their districts. Nothing wrong with that, IMO, though some of the details might not have been pretty to watch.

The problem with SLS is that, lacking any stated goals, it certainly looks to a lot of people like pure pork for FL, AL, TX, UT.  Which is strange, because it would have taken one short paragraph in the legislation to remedy the situation, after which they could have kept the existing performance/design specifications. It wouldn't have kept questions from being asked, but it would have been better than the present language.

Solely exempli gratia, such a paragraph as the following. Many others would serve as well.

The Senate finds that an ambitious program of human spaceflight will be of great political and economic benefit to America. Accordingly, NASA is directed to resume a program of human exploration of the Moon starting with an initial landing not later than January 1, 2021 and continuing with at least two landings per year for the next ten years. Each landing will deliver at least three crew to the lunar surface,  where they will remain for at least one month and conduct scientific studies of the Moon, with an emphasis on locating and characterizing exploitable resources such as water ice.

Edited to add example.
« Last Edit: 08/04/2011 09:50 PM by ChileVerde »
"I canít tell you which asteroid, but there will be one in 2025," Bolden asserted.

Offline RocketEconomist327

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People are coming to this realization that we will not have SLS anytime soon.  So what can we do now?

Depots
Tugs
Moon
L1
L2
Phobos
Assembly of a spaceship at L1

The only thing I have been told we probably couldn't do was a nuclear reactor.  I think we will need a SHLV for that.  Someone prove me wrong.

This all, by the way, goes off the philosophy that you build your spaceships in LEO or at L1.

Just inside the beltway again today.  There is no money for SLS in the very near future. 

What to you want to do Senators?  Fund a space program or fund your states?

VR
RE327
You can talk about all the great things you can do, or want to do, in space; but unless the rocket scientists get a sound understanding of economics (and quickly), the US space program will never achieve the greatness it should.

Putting my money where my mouth is.

Offline ChileVerde

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What to you want to do Senators?  Fund a space program or fund your states?


Well, both, I'm sure. But given the choice of one or the other, is there any doubt?
"I canít tell you which asteroid, but there will be one in 2025," Bolden asserted.

Offline Lars_J

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To respond to the original thread question: What could be done with a 50mt to LEO LV in HSF exploration in the next 10 yrs?

I think the more accurate question is: What CAN'T we do with a 50 mt to LEO laucnher in the next decade?

Since we aren't going to have human missions to Mars withing a decade or two - at least (the only mission that IMO may need a bigger LV), I'd say we can do everything that we could to with a 100+ mt LV.

HSF to L1/L2. And LLO. And lunar landings. And asteroid missions. All of these types of missions can accomplished with a 50 mt LV. This is not a hard problem to solve, if the funding is there.

... And with orbital propellant depots, we could do all of these things with even smaller launchers. But 50 mt is plenty.
« Last Edit: 08/04/2011 10:18 PM by Lars_J »

Offline mmeijeri

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... And with orbital propellant depots, we could do all of these things with even smaller launchers. But 50 mt is plenty.

We don't even need the 50mT, even without depots, 25-30mT is plenty. EELV class launchers and storable propellant transfer for a spacecraft (not a full depot) are enough. We have all the technologies we need and we'd need a spacecraft anyway. For whatever reason people imagine that certain technologies or capabilities (SHLVs, 50mT HLVs, cryogenic depots, NTR) are necessary, when in reality none of them are and only some would be all that important.

I do think there is a role for 50mT launch vehicles, but mainly because of the desire for a larger upper stage as an EDS, not for the launch vehicle per se. And this will remain true even after cryogenic depots become operational.

If we want to explore soon (or open up space soon), then we need a true spacecraft, not new launch vehicles, depots or other infrastructure.
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Offline deltaV

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From another thread:
Or one heck of a commercially sourced/purchased space program. Imagine what could be done and explored if ULA, Boeing, SpaceX, SnC, Bigelow all got that money instead of the SLS and MPCV black holes. I know it is an unrealistic dream that it would happen - but I can dream, can't I? :)
This seems like a good thread to answer that question of what exploration could be done using the current exploration budget with 50 mt launchers instead of SLS. MPCV+SLS+exploration R&D have a combined budget of a bit over $3 billion per year this decade. The ISS budget is about $3 billion per year. Let's suppose the ISS is extended until 2026 and exploration gets the majority of the ISS budget afterwords, an extra $2 billion per year. Let's be suppose that these budgets are in year-2011 dollars to simplify our calculations.

The Augustine report says about getting NASA out of the launch vehicle business::
Quote
However, this efficiency of operations would require
significant near-term realignment of NASA. Substantial
reductions in workforce, facilities closures, and mothballing
would be required. When the Committee asked NASA to
assess the cost of this process, the estimates ranged from
$3 billion to $11 billion over five years.
The geometric mean of $3b and $11b is $6 billion, which seems like a good point estimate of those costs. I'll take a wild guess that the $6b would be $1b each of the first 6 years.

So the overall budget for exploration spacecraft is:

YearsBudget ($b)
1-62=3-1
7-153
16-205=3+2

Total: $64b over 20 years.

The following estimates seem reasonable for back of the envelope calculations for costs of NASA beyond low earth orbit spacecraft.
Spacecraft development costs say $300k per (dry) kg. Sustaining the engineers and factory to produce a spacecraft costs $20k per kg per year. Each incremental spacecraft produced costs $20k per kg. Development of relatively simple and heavy spacecraft may cost a bit less, say $100k per dry kg. Development of unusually small or complex spacecraft may cost more. These estimates were inspired in part by the following thread:

For example the recently launched Juno mission is about $300k per kg (although I don't know if the 3,625 kg figure I used to calculate that was wet or dry). This rule would give the roughly 13 mt MPCV a dev cost of $4.0b, sustainment of $270m per year, and $270m increment cost. I don't know the real figures for MPCV, but according to the thread on Orion costs this seems about right.

SpaceX quotes $80m-$125m for a Falcon Heavy launch. Let's conservatively say that SpaceX is the lowest bidder, no progress is made by any US company over the next 20 years to reduce launch costs, the Falcon Heavy underperforms a bit and only gets 50 mt to LEO, and NASA paperwork raises the launch cost to $150m per launch.

For $64b we can get any one of:
210 dry mt of spacecraft designs
320 dry mt-decade of spacecraft design sustainment
3200 dry mt of spacecraft manufactured
21000 wet mt to LEO on over 400 Falcon Heavy launches

So what sorts of exploration might we do with this budget?

Offline AlexCam

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SpaceX quotes $80m-$125m for a Falcon Heavy launch. Let's conservatively say that SpaceX is the lowest bidder, no progress is made by any US company over the next 20 years to reduce launch costs, the Falcon Heavy underperforms a bit and only gets 50 mt to LEO, and NASA paperwork raises the launch cost to $150m per launch.

I think your analysis was quite realistic until this paragraph.

It would be better to assume launch prices per mt are what they are now (or are only cut a bit). And while Atlas V and Delta IV are existing heavy launch vehicles, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy only exists on paper.

Having said that, for any strategy planning I think it would be very unreasonably to assume costs below 300-400million per launch of a 50mt LV.


To add to what posters have said above, the "10 year limitation" on this thread was supposed to limit the amount of speculation we can do. Can we really pull off a NEO mission within 10 years given NASA's calculations for its costs and complexity? I would say that even LLO might be too challenging within 10 years in the current space flight climate. What I can see happening is circumlunar and a Lagrange point test mission.

Offline deltaV

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It would be better to assume launch prices per mt are what they are now (or are only cut a bit). And while Atlas V and Delta IV are existing heavy launch vehicles, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy only exists on paper.

Having said that, for any strategy planning I think it would be very unreasonably to assume costs below 300-400million per launch of a 50mt LV.
Falcon Heavy is a bit beyond the pure paper stage: its engine Merlin 1D has apparently been test fired and the construction of its Vandenberg pad has begun. On the other hand it still a few years from flight. No Falcon Heavy launches except for the test flight appear on SpaceX's manifest, which suggests that payload owners share your skepticism.

A Proton M can lift 22 mt to LEO and costs $100M (Appendix A of http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/media/10998.pdf). Extrapolating gives $230M for 50 mt. A Zenit costs $60M and lifts 13 mt (admittedly for different versions); extrapolating coincidentally also gives $230M for 50 mt.

An Ariane 5 can lift 21 mt and costs $220M (different versions), for an extrapolated 50 mt cost of $520M. The Delta IV Medium-Plus (5,4) is $170M and lifts 13 mt. That extrapolates to $650M for 50 mt. (I couldn't easily find a recent price for Delta Heavy.)

After some more thought I agree with you that my $150M figure is optimistic. A reasonable range might be $100M-$700M, where the lower endpoint is the price if someone can deliver on SpaceX's promises and the latter is if NASA has to pay ULA's current price per mt plus a little development and fixed costs. A value of $300M seems like a good point estimate. This is over twice SpaceX's listed price and somewhat worse per mt than current former USSR heavy launchers.

Quote
To add to what posters have said above, the "10 year limitation" on this thread was supposed to limit the amount of speculation we can do. Can we really pull off a NEO mission within 10 years given NASA's calculations for its costs and complexity? I would say that even LLO might be too challenging within 10 years in the current space flight climate. What I can see happening is circumlunar and a Lagrange point test mission.
Oops I'm afraid I somehow missed that 10 year mention in the thread title. I guess my post is therefore a bit off topic for this thread.

Offline ChileVerde

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 No Falcon Heavy launches except for the test flight appear on SpaceX's manifest, which suggests that payload owners share your skepticism.


Slightly random question, but is there any indication that SpaceX is developing multiple-payload adapters for F9/FH like Ariane 5 has?
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Offline neilh

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Falcon Heavy is a bit beyond the pure paper stage: its engine Merlin 1D has apparently been test fired and the construction of its Vandenberg pad has begun. On the other hand it still a few years from flight. No Falcon Heavy launches except for the test flight appear on SpaceX's manifest, which suggests that payload owners share your skepticism.

It's worth noting though that Falcon Heavy was announced 4 months ago. How long does it take for a payload to go from concept to the point that they're ready to book a flight?
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Offline FinalFrontier

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Quite alot could be done, actually, although will entail building things in somewhat smaller pieces for deep space mission (l1,2 ect). For example instead of the hab module (or mission module) being one piece it might consist of two and then the command/service combo and propulsion. (3 fh launches)
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Offline AlexCam

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Quite alot could be done, actually, although will entail building things in somewhat smaller pieces for deep space mission (l1,2 ect). For example instead of the hab module (or mission module) being one piece it might consist of two and then the command/service combo and propulsion. (3 fh launches)

The other scenario would be to start thinking differently. Instead of building infrastructure for missions for 4-6 people, early missions are built with the absolute minimum. 2 people a mission, smallest capsule they can come up with, lightweight habitation module. Then the question becomes what can be done with single launch missions with a 50mt+ LV (25mt to GTO).

Offline cro-magnon gramps

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What could be done with a 50mt to LEO LV in HSF exploration in the next 10 yrs, without NASA and Congress?

Sacrilege, political suicide and I am sure to get smacked down, but the reality of the economic climate is that NASA and Congress will not have the money to do more than tick along on life support; so it is up to people who have a love or ambition to see HSF in their life times; as well, either have deep pockets, or able to club together in large enough numbers to do some interesting stuff (a lot like those guys in Denmark ;-) )

oh, and correct me if I am wrong, but hasn't Elon suggested that the Dragon could land on the Moon with it's LES/soft lander rockets; just needs to be refueled or over fueled for lift off and return to earth ;-) 
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Offline AlexCam

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What could be done with a 50mt to LEO LV in HSF exploration in the next 10 yrs, without NASA and Congress?

My harsh answer is that without taxpayer funding nothing can be accomplished in HSF exploration in the next 10 years and likely beyond. There is no business case for HSF exploration without taxpayer money.

Quote
oh, and correct me if I am wrong, but hasn't Elon suggested that the Dragon could land on the Moon with it's LES/soft lander rockets; just needs to be refueled or over fueled for lift off and return to earth ;-) 

He may have suggested it, but it does not make sense. To use Dragon as a one-stage lander and ascender for a Moon landing would require dedicated restartable and reliable high-trust engines and massive tanks with tens of tons of fuel.

Offline KelvinZero

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Might be this quote:
"Furthermore, the integrated escape system returns with the spacecraft, allowing for easy reuse and radical reductions in the cost of space transport.  Over time, the same escape thrusters will also provide the capability for Dragon to land almost anywhere on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy, overcoming the limitation of a winged architecture that works only in Earth's atmosphere."

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=24979.0

My guess is that it is a more general comment about the advantage of pursuing the technology being developed for Dragon, rather than advocating Dragon as suitable for a lunar mission without adaption. 'over time' implies something new.

Offline JohnFornaro

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From the OP:

Quote
Circumlunar flights? Lunar orbital flights? Lagrange point flights? An actual NEO mission?

Every one of those things.  In smaller chunx, maybe, than the BFR team would prefer, but chunx twice as large as have been available for the last thirty some odd years.

Quote
If you want to avoid propellant depots (we can't have NASA develop new technologies after all)...

Just getting a bit grammatical on ya:  We can't have NASA develop specific new technologies, only ones that will give us new hope on changing the paradigm and inspire our children.  Whoops.  It's Monday morning.

Quote
I would think that spending $X billion dollars on, say, this kind of moon mission would generate about the same amount of pork as spending the same amount on, say, SLS.

It sure seems that way, doesn't it?  Not only that, but the distribution thereof would probably be in large proportion similar, to the way it is dished out now.  Which is circumstantial support to the idea that they literally don't intend to accopmplish.  But it does directly support the idea that the decision making process, the prioritization of what the agency should be doing, is not based on science or rational methodologies.

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NASA defines an interface to the launch vehicle ...

I mentioned this last year sometime, and was told that this is not the way they do things.  Which means that they are doing this thing wrong.  There should be a standard interface.

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We have been doing orbital rendezvous for many decades...

That's exactly right.  The strenuous official rejection of orbital assembly is irrational.

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We built ISS essentially at a rate of $600 Million / 25mT.  What if that same $600Mil had lifted 200mT instead?  I can think of a lot to do with that...

Well yes, as could we all.  But you haven't shown the hypothetical lower launch cost/pound ratio.

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...a hilarious new board game.

Amerikalopoly?

Quote
I think that "pork" might be considered an odious subset of "politically viable."

I'd say that you are correct.

Quote
Solely exempli gratia, such a paragraph as the following. Many others would serve as well.

The Senate finds that an ambitious program of human spaceflight will be of great political and economic benefit to America. Accordingly, NASA is directed to resume a program of human exploration of the Moon starting with an initial landing not later than January 1, 2021 and continuing with at least two landings per year for the next ten years. Each landing will deliver at least three crew to the lunar surface,  where they will remain for at least one month and conduct scientific studies of the Moon, with an emphasis on locating and characterizing exploitable resources such as water ice.

Spot on.  Two points for Gryffindor.

Quote
What CAN'T we do with a 50 mt to LEO laucnher in the next decade?

Easy.  We couldn't go to Alpha Centauri.  Or Barnard's star.
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Offline cro-magnon gramps

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From the OP:

Spot on.  Two points for Gryffindor.

Quote
What CAN'T we do with a 50 mt to LEO laucnher in the next decade?

Easy.  We couldn't go to Alpha Centauri.  Or Barnard's star.

of course we could use a 50 mt launcher to sent a probe to Alpha Centauri or Barnard's Star, by Robotic Explorer; we just probably wouldn't be around to receive their reports  ???
  more to the point, we could send a reasonably sized probe out to the Kuieper belt and the Oort cloud in a more reasonable time frame (200 to 1000 AU or so in 10-20 years 8) where is Voyager (Vger) now)
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Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Easy.  We couldn't go to Alpha Centauri.  Or Barnard's star.

Actually depends very much on the propulsion system.  There are a few options that you could fit on a reasonable number of 50t IMLEO launches.  It really depends, as Gramps put it, whether you want to wait 200 years + for the data to come back.


[edit]
Fixed tags
« Last Edit: 08/09/2011 12:01 PM by Ben the Space Brit »
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Offline Warren Platts

Easy.  We couldn't go to Alpha Centauri.  Or Barnard's star.

Actually depends very much on the propulsion system.  There are a few options that you could fit on a reasonable number of 50t IMLEO launches.  It really depends, as Gramps put it, whether you want to wait 200 years + for the data to come back.

Well, it would be sending back interesting data on the nature of interstellar space the whole time, so the wait-time wouldn't be a complete waste.... :)
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Given the state of analysis on the SLS and budgetary constraints, if NASA were to opt for one of the sensible options left - Phase 1 upgrade of Delta IV or Atlas V to 40-50mt to LEO variants, what could NASA potentially do with that vehicle?

Maybe this belongs in a separate thread, but here goes...

A couple variations on that question... What would you do that you feel is constructive and feasible (if anything) to provide relevant launch and HSF capabilities vs. the current program of record (such as it is)?  On the table are:

1. The remaining ~$7.5B that would otherwise be spent on SLS?  (Current cost cap of $11.5B, -$1.8B FY11, -$2.2B1 FY12.)

2. The remainng ~$4.25B that would otherwise be spent on Orion?  (NASA estimated $11.75B2 total to first crewed flight, -$4.9B spent as of Nov 2010, -$1.2B FY11, -$1.4B1 FY12.)

That assumes no sea change could occur before FY13.  That's a total of ~$11.75B to play with starting in calendar Q4-2012 for 4-5 years, and about a year to get your ducks in a row before the funds become available.  Feel free to add FY12 funds and start sooner if you're feeling optimistic.


1 Based on Dec 2010 authorization act; appropriations TBD.
2 Average of NASA's $11.5-12.0B range.
« Last Edit: 08/09/2011 11:40 PM by joek »

Offline JohnFornaro

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Quote
What CAN'T we do with a 50 mt to LEO laucnher in the next decade?

Easy.  We couldn't go to Alpha Centauri.  Or Barnard's star.

of course we could use a 50 mt launcher to sent a probe to Alpha Centauri or Barnard's Star ...

There's one in every crowd.

Actually depends very much on the propulsion system.  ...

Ok, two in this crowd.
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Offline cro-magnon gramps

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Quote
What CAN'T we do with a 50 mt to LEO laucnher in the next decade?

Easy.  We couldn't go to Alpha Centauri.  Or Barnard's star.

of course we could use a 50 mt launcher to sent a probe to Alpha Centauri or Barnard's Star ...

There's one in every crowd.

Actually depends very much on the propulsion system.  ...

Ok, two in this crowd.

and we are both Brits  ;D
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