Author Topic: What technologies is SpaceX missing for doing a space station module?  (Read 5939 times)

Offline baldusi

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I'm assuming that SpaceX, after having developed the Cargo Dragon, Crew Dragon and Dragon Lab, would have most of the technologies for doing a "simple" module for a space station. Something like a Node 4 or so.
I mean, they would have the technologies for pressure vessel, CBM, NDS, ECLSS, human rated interfaces, ISS software interfaces, avionics and data networks. What would they be missing?
I stated a Node 4 because I understand that's sort of the simplest sort of module (no experiment racks, minimum ECLSS, etc.) May be it isn't so simple.
I'm also not stating that SpaceX should start building space stations, nor an ISS Node 4. But if they do develop a BEO crewed stack, what would they be missing? I understand that they lack a bathroom, for example, and haven't shown any special radiation protection technologies. So any other missing techs would be nice to know. On the same topic, what's the difference (from a technology point of view) of a BEO ship/habitat module and a space station module?

Offline FinalFrontier

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Experience and tooling mostly.


LV's and spacecraft are their primary enterprises not modules. I would guess at the very least they would need larger tooling (welding machines ect for bigger barrel sections) unless they could adapt existing f9 tooling for the job.


But I really don't see spacex diversifying into this sector just yet. I think they will, and should imo, continue to focus on providing cheaper/safer/faster transport for both cargo and eventually crew to LEO.



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Online Robotbeat

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Space radiation "technologies" really aren't very advanced. All that is required is mass (hydrogen-rich materials work best, though), and the effectiveness of a certain distribution of that mass can be determined with freely available code (to a first and probably second order, a simple line integral can determine the radiation dosage for a certain amount of shielding). This is not advanced technology and is not something that other groups have any significant advantage over any new entrant. Right now, it's just a question of how much plastic (or water which would work just as well and also aluminum, though it's not as hydrogen-rich) and where it is.
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Offline A_M_Swallow

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SpaceX may need a station keeping thruster, something that they can restart about 1000 times.  In flight refuelling of propellants, water and breathable oxygen.  The chef could probably use a full galley.

Offline ChefPat

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The chef could probably use a full galley.
I, in fact, have plans for Zero G through Mars gravity. ;)
Hydroponics, small animal husbandry in light gravity conditions, use of exotic soils, etc. All these things have actually been studies by Hilton Hotels Inc. already. ;D
« Last Edit: 01/09/2012 03:10 am by ChefPat »
Playing Politics with Commercial Crew is Un-American!!!

Offline Antares

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That's the coolest thing I've read in a while.  It's good to know that established industries are playing the space "what-if" scenarios.

I'd think that SpaceX would partner with Bigelow if they were serious about doing modules.

The other scenario I would see is if NASA put out an RFP for a build-to-spec module (since NASA owns the node designs, for instance), I think SpaceX would definitely be a bidder.
« Last Edit: 01/09/2012 03:54 am by Antares »
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Online Robotbeat

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The chef could probably use a full galley.
I, in fact, have plans for Zero G through Mars gravity. ;)
Hydroponics, small animal husbandry in light gravity conditions, use of exotic soils, etc. All these things have actually been studies by Hilton Hotels Inc. already. ;D
Linky link? ;)
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Offline ChefPat

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Linky link? ;)
[/quote]

Is This A Good Idea? A Lunar Hotel?

[Snip]

 I firmly believe that we are going to have Hiltons in outer space, perhaps even soon enough for me to officiate at the formal opening of the first. If the world powers continue to restrict outer space to peaceful pursuits, there will be travelers in outer space—and where there are travelers there must be Hiltons.
This was no idle fantasy. Barron Hilton said that he had consulted researchers at Cornell University, who actually had written a feasibility study on the project, and went on to describe his moon hotel in more detail:
Entrance to the Lunar Hilton will be on the surface of the moon, but most of the Hilton will be situated beneath the surface—say 20 to 30 feet—to establish constant temperature controls and a more workable hotel area. The experiments of Surveyor Three seem to indicate that excavations on the moon are possible and that the moon soil might be used for construction.
The Hilton will have three levels. At the bottom mechanical equipment will be housed. The center level will consist of two 400-foot guest corridors crossing in the middle core. These corridors will contain 100 guest rooms. The top level will be used for public space. Off the dining room we will place necessary machines and storage areas. The various sections will be lined with plastic which can expand under air pressure. Each section will be separated from the others by air locks. Thus, should leaks develope [sic? is it spelled that way in original?] in these pressurized cells they can be repaired as an automobile tire is repaired here on earth. The Cornell boys assure us that "leaks that develop in the system will be a nuisance rather than a disaster".
To start with we will have only three floors, which will eliminate elevators and minimize power requirements. The multi-storied underground hotel will come later. But—and this is very important—in almost every respect the Lunar Hilton will be physically like an earth Hilton.
We know that most guests are uneasy unless their accommodations are a reflection of their style of living. We will have none of those science-fiction "cells". The rooms will be large, with carpets and drapes and plants; the artificial lighting will reflect the sunlight. There will be wall-to-wall television for programs from earth and for views of outer space.

[snip]
Playing Politics with Commercial Crew is Un-American!!!

Offline baldusi

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Experience and tooling mostly.
I can't remember but I believe that the OD of the US modules is 4.4m (between 14ft and 15ft). The RS has 2.55m and 4.1m. The Dragon is 3.65m. So I'm assuming that they could build a 3.65m module without much trouble. For a sort of Node 4 module, it might just be enough. At least if it's an NDS node.

SpaceX may need a station keeping thruster, something that they can restart about 1000 times.  In flight refuelling of propellants, water and breathable oxygen.  The chef could probably use a full galley.
That's why I asked about a Node 4 type of module. If I'm not mistaken the station keeping is done through other parts. And I believe that the fluid transfer is only done by the RS.

Offline RanulfC

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That's the coolest thing I've read in a while.  It's good to know that established industries are playing the space "what-if" scenarios.
Caterpillar has done a few studies and some talks on what would be required for a lunar or martian tractor both for moving regolith an as construction and transport equipment :)

So yes, "normal" companies ARE in fact paying attention :)

Randy
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British physics, old chap. It's undignified to belch flames and effluvia all over the pad, what. A true gentlemen's orbital conveyance lifts itself into the air unostentatiously, with the minimum of spectacle and a modicum of grace. Not like our American cousins' launch vehicles, eh?

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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That's the coolest thing I've read in a while.  It's good to know that established industries are playing the space "what-if" scenarios.
Caterpillar has done a few studies and some talks on what would be required for a lunar or martian tractor both for moving regolith an as construction and transport equipment :)

So yes, "normal" companies ARE in fact paying attention :)

Randy

Caterpillar is heavily involved with Astrobotic.

http://astrobotic.net/alliance/caterpillar/

Online Ronsmytheiii

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The simple answer is a business case. NASA already has pretty much all the space station modules it needs, and Bigelow is already much further along, not to mention the Russian modules available.  In this case, for a limited market there already exists suppliers, and if SpaceX went to compete with them by starting its own module designs it would really be shooting themselves in the foot in terms of demand for Falcon/Dragon flights.

Dragonlab has more of a symbiotic relationship with others as it provides a much better microgravity requirement and downmass capability, think more of a Spacelab/SpaceHab research module with a much cleaner microgravity environment versus a miniature station.

Offline MikeAtkinson

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The simple answer is a business case.

I agree, customers and the ability to make money out of them are the things lacking.

Currently we have the ISS, which provides a great permanmently manned facility. Soon there will be DragonLab which will give a low cost flight for experiments which do not need human tending. Soon also there may be Bigelow modules which give lots of volume but only a so-so experimental platform.

I think there is a gap in the market for man tended free flyers.

SpaceX would have an advantage there, relationships built up for DragonLab experiments can be extended for man-tended experiments.

I think it likely that SpaceX have long term ambitions to develop deep space habs, as these would be required by Mars missions. A man-tended free flyer would be a half-way step towards a deep space hab.

Offline oldAtlas_Eguy

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I think the question:
What in-space complete hardware system does SpaceX’s experience equate to and what because of their focus would they be interested in accomplishing?

So what is SpaceX’s focus?

I think it can be put simply as a focus on “getting there” as opposed to “being there”. Without the ability of “getting there” there will be no “being there”. I also think it can be refined to “getting there for less”.

So what would a near term in-space system other than Dragon that would represent a “getting there for less” focus?

A space station module is more of a “being there” focus. But a hab module with a reusable/refuelable tug attached for a LEO to L1 and back to LEO transport would be a “getting there” in the same vein as Dragon and also fulfill other focuses on reusability and lowering costs. The hab module may be a Bigelow module, a radiation beefed up Dragon or both pushed back and forth by a as yet to exist Raptor LOX/LH2 reusable US sized for the job as tug and refuelable, but it could also be just a M1DVAC reusable US. Either would have to basically be an unlimited start pressurized hypergolic, electric or something else that can turn the turbines to get the Merlin or Raptor started. This also means that they would build a depot in LEO either a LOX/LH2 or a RP1/LOX in order to refuel the tug. So this system would also require SpaceX to acquire new technologies in cryo boiloff control as well as cryo prop transfer in microgravity. The unlimited restart technologies may be useable for other applications such as the booster and US rapid reusability.

As for a business case, offering commercially the same capability, actually more (up to a 7 person transport to L1 vs 4 and 40+t cargo chunks/prop delivery to L1) for less than what NASA is paying for by that time (if SLS and MPCV as well as a Gateway exists) is itself an excellent business case.

Online Robotbeat

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If Tiangong-1 is a "space station" with only 15m^3 of pressurized volume, then Dragon (especially once it gets its NDS port) is essentially a "space station" itself, with 10m^3 of volume.

Fit Cygnus with an NDS port, and it is even more a "space station", since it has 19m^3 of pressurized volume, and the extended version (which will be used for the later CRS flights) will have 27m^3, almost twice Tiangong-1.

ATV has 48 m^3, so it could be considered a "space station" if it had the right docking adapter.

And before you object, note that Tiangong-1 is essentially the same design that is intended to be used as an unmanned cargo vehicle for China's later plans for a space station. There has been thought put into operating ATV as a sort of space station, too.

What does a "space station" count as? By some definitions, Dragon practically already is a space station module, since it will dock to ISS and act as a temporary module there. Dragonlab could act as a man-tended space station, though I'm not really sure I see the point.

SpaceX has all it takes (other than perhaps an NDS port) to make a space station module if "Tiangong-1" counts as a space station.
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Offline apace

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SpaceX has all it takes (other than perhaps an NDS port) to make a space station module if "Tiangong-1" counts as a space station.

Since Salyut 6 I think we should agree that a space station is a place which can be manned all the time and be supported by unmanned cargo ships. So two ports are needed to call a space vehicle space station today in my opinion ;-)
« Last Edit: 01/10/2012 10:33 pm by apace »

Online Robotbeat

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SpaceX has all it takes (other than perhaps an NDS port) to make a space station module if "Tiangong-1" counts as a space station.

Since Salyut 6 I think we should agree that a space station is a place which can be manned all the time and be supported by unmanned cargo ships. So two ports are needed to call a space vehicle space station today in my opinion ;-)
I tend to agree with you.

Plus, a minimum amount of space probably is necessary for it to be a "space station." Salyut was what, at least 90m^3? Around half that is probably a good minimum number. Any less than that, and the astronauts will go crazy if they stay in there too long (i.e. more than a month or two).
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Offline Danderman

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