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Do you miss the Space Shuttle Program


Commander MK
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Do you miss the Space Shuttle Program  

5 members have voted

  1. 1. Do you miss the Space Shuttle Program

    • Yes
      66
    • No
      69


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While we're talking about the Saturn V...

Isn't the "Merlin Engine" just knocking off the F-1 Engine? And Space-X is all gloaty about using modern fabrication processes to get a few more ISPs than decades old technology.

So NASA basically is paying a company to make (and screw up) "stylized Saturn Rockets" all because we made an exceptionally cool piece of technology that had only a few practical applications.

Meh, it was exceptionally cool but... I wonder if we would be having more interplanetary missions without it. (Which are cooler)

I don't think the Merlin is derived from the F-1. Apparently there's an "F-1B" in the works though for SLS, apparently for liquid fueled boosters.

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While we're talking about the Saturn V...

Isn't the "Merlin Engine" just knocking off the F-1 Engine? And Space-X is all gloaty about using modern fabrication processes to get a few more ISPs than decades old technology.

Apart from both using a gas-generator cycle, I don't think they are related. Even just from a scale point of view an F-1 was about 9 tonnes, while a Merlin is 630 Kg. IIRC some of the basic design ideas were originally taken from a Russian engine, but I know the turbopump is an entirely original design. They've always been trying some pretty unusual design variations. For example one early version used an ablatively cooled composite nozzle! Anyway the design has been iterated on so much any resemblance to previous designs is pretty academic at this stage.

Simon Hibbs

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I don't miss it. Was it inspiring? Yes. Was it practical? No.

1 billion dollars per launch and it didn't even get past LEO. Not to mention the stupid, dangerous decision to use solid rockets.

The Buran shuttle on the other hand, was more advanced than the shuttle in just about every way. It had a full autopilot, able to land itself without crew. It used liquid boosters, which were far safer than solid fuel.

Also, check out this:

Shuttle's Payload to LEO:24,400 kg

Buran/Energia payload to LEO: 100,000 kg

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This is truthfully hard for me to answer, and this is why:

As much as I think it is imperative that NASA has its own dedicated launch vehicle system, the Shuttle wasn't totally the answer. I do miss regular space flights being launched from the Cape, but the problem is, the Shuttle was not the best vehicle they could have used. First of all, it was fairly unreliable, causing 14 deaths (all due to completely "fixable" issues.) There was a lot of negligence that went into these disasters and it was never a very stable vehicle imho from the beginning. I think NASA should move forward with a more technologically balanced spacecraft with a much safer plan, but right now I fear they're just lagging and lagging and lagging with it. So yes, I do miss the shuttle because I miss NASA astronauts making spaceflights from their homeland. But I don't miss the shuttle because it was dangerous, unreliable, hefty, limited and followed a needlessly complex flight profile and also used up WAYY more money than was planned.

It's a shame too. I just hope that whatever NASA has in store for their next manned launch system is far more successful.

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I don't miss it. Was it inspiring? Yes. Was it practical? No.

1 billion dollars per launch and it didn't even get past LEO. Not to mention the stupid, dangerous decision to use solid rockets.

The Buran shuttle on the other hand, was more advanced than the shuttle in just about every way. It had a full autopilot, able to land itself without crew. It used liquid boosters, which were far safer than solid fuel.

Also, check out this:

Shuttle's Payload to LEO:24,400 kg

Buran/Energia payload to LEO: 100,000 kg

That Buran/Energia payload number includes the mass of the Buran itself. That Shuttle payload number is only for the payload in the Shuttle's payload bay, not including the Shuttle itself that also get put into orbit.

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That Buran/Energia payload number includes the mass of the Buran itself. That Shuttle payload number is only for the payload in the Shuttle's payload bay, not including the Shuttle itself that also get put into orbit.

Even so, Buran can loft 30 tons to LEO compared to shuttle at 25 tons. One of the reason why is because it doesn't try to return any big heavy (and expensive due to reusability) main engines back to the ground.

Energia is a fully functional rocket by itself without Buran and can loft 100 tons to LEO. It demonstrated this capability once by lofting Polyus (a 80 ton Soviet death star, no seriously it had a laser cannon and everything) into orbit:

Polyus_800.jpg

Energia had an interesting story. Just like lots of us in this thread Glushko looked at the NASA shuttle and told everyone it was a really bad idea. But his bosses insist that America built the shuttle to drop nukes on the USSR from orbit and they had to have one too. Now Glushko had this obsession with building a base on the Moon and he knew that to do that he first needed a Saturn V sized rocket. So instead of simply copying the shuttle like his bosses wanted he put all the big engines on the "External Tank" instead of the orbiter and used two liquid fuel boosters instead of SRBs. The result was a moonshot sized rocket that vaguely looked like the NASA shuttle's ET+SRB that could loft 100 ton of dead weight (eg, Buran which didn't have any engines) to LEO. Of course since none of the thrust actually came from Buran the Energia doesn't actually care what that 100 ton of payload is, thus instead of Buran you could put any thing else on there (say, parts for a moon base?). Glushko was gambling that once the bosses see that Buran didn't actually have much purpose they would switch focus back to the moon and he can then jump up and say "oh hey, we just happen to have this 100 ton to LEO rocket in production to send stuff to the moon, isn't that convenient!"

And it probably would have worked too, if it wasn't for the fact that Soviet Union fall apart.

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Fortunately, we didn't loose RD-171 so we at least have a powerful engine. There were many Energia modifications planned such as Vulcan that could put 200 tons into orbit:

vulkan3.jpg

And Energia-M (30-60 tons to orbit): klipU4j.gif

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Was it an inefficient, overpriced program? Yes. Can we blame the shuttles for that? No. The space shuttle was huge, physically and historically, but could have been part of something even greater. If the government had agreed to give a bigger initial investment, it would have been what it wanted to be.

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The space shuttle was the longest lasting spacecraft in US history. It was way more efficient, and without it, many important discoveries made by Hubble, or the ISS would never have happened. But it was also outdated, and starting to slow down. I think 30 years is long enough for it, and it is time to pave the way for the next generation spacecraft.

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Shuttles were cool. Big planes on rockets that went into orbit and you could fly home. I`m currently putting together a big thing in orbit using engines only just capable of LKO. I will use a tug to take it to minmus where I will refuel it then it will be off on a grand mission.

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No no no this is not a hindsight issue this a common sense issue: you don't drop BILLIONS of dollars of infrastructure to build it all over again just because on paper it will be better. That like having a working car but throwing it away, spending several years saving and buying a new car that ON PAPER is superior to the old one, in the mean time you throw away a perfectly good car and spent several years without one.

Old joke about the guy who sold his car to buy a garage.

The concept is not a bad idea, the problem is money: you need a hell of a lot to develop a true 2 or 1 stage to orbit fully reusable spaceplane, and it turned out no one was willing to fit the bill in the end, not even NASA which turned a cruelly awesome idea of a 2 stage duel fly back fuel H2/LOX fueled booster/orbiter into the monstrosity of a throwaway fuel tank and strap on solid rocket boosters. Venture Star was a great idea but yet again no one was willing to pay to make it work, and it would have had they been willing to get passed the teething of making reliable composite fuel tanks.

Agree I got a huge SSTO ROCKET, NO JETS, NO WINGS, just straight up to orbit and back landing on landing gear with/without parachutes, that lifts ~20 tons to 100 km orbit, it works, can carry awkward loads, I named it the "Elon Musk Express"

Problem is that an SSTO does not work with today's technology, Skylon or scramjet might change this.

Venture Star had this problem to, yes the small suborbital worked but to get the huge one to work they had to use bleeding edge technology and push it to 110%. Things like oxygen tanks of carbon fiber, as carbon fiber will ignite at contact with oxygen you cover it with an nanometer thick layer of metal.

Not something who is reliable and have an fast turnabout.

An two stage spaceplane would work. downside is that you need an mach 5-6 passenger jet sized first stage for an decent payload, yes it can be build with existing tech but cost serious money to make. This also give the option to use an upper stage reusable shuttle for passengers or light cargo or an rocket for heavier load.

In KSP I have an two stages who lift 150 ton to LKO. Yes it use four boosters but the boosters can also land themselves.

(switch to booster after separation, activate mechjeb landing autopilot, turn on rcs to rotate and move fuel from landing tank to main tank (this to not use fuel for landing))

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It's easy to bash the STS design in hindsight, but it was very well suited to its design objectives:

1. Make-work to keep Thiokol's ICBM production capability online

2. Return and recover the main engines in a useable state

3. Capture satellites on-orbit, secure them in a cargo bay, and land with them in the continental US

#1 demanded solid rocket boosters

#2 and #3 demanded a winged vehicle

A winged vehicle on top of the stack will try to turn upside down, so its easier placed on the side

Things its not so great for are:

Aborting launches

Cheap, regular deliveries to the ISS

Lofting parts of a space station in the first place (could have been done with fewer, Skylab size pieces on Saturn Vs)

Missions beyond LEO

So its not what we need anymore, but its certainly what we needed in the 1980s - not a totally wasteful digression from the glories of the 1960s as some would paint it. Some will certainly decry the political/military design parameters existing at all, but they forget before the fall of the Soviets it was genuinely serious business, and something Apollo was hardly immune to. There would not be a space program without military objectives. However, why we would still subsidize ICBM-derived boosters post-2000 as with Constellation and SLS is mystifying. Let's all root for the F1b.

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I miss it because we have no replacement. They were beautiful looking ships and I grew up watching them launch, so I also miss it for nostalgic reasons.

Even if they did cost a lot of money, there are about a million other things I would have cut before the shuttle program.

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I was tearing my hair out trying to figure how to answer this, but finally went with "no". I don't miss the Shuttle Program because, as stated, it was needlessly expensive, met none of its goals, and confined a huge chunk of NASA's investment to LEO.

But do I miss the Space Shuttle? Hell yes I do. It was a cultural icon, and we'll probably never see such a stunning and memorable launch vehicle again.

I agree. *I read on a article that the Russians plan for a moonbase by 2030, so even if the plan does not come, we will still be like Mir, the Americans hitching rides. *The ISS would have been called "Space Station Freedom", but America wanted to test international cooperation in space.

Every step in spaceflight is one more to the human race. *It does not matter if it is American, Chinese, Russian, Indian, European, or Japanese. *And every step, every boot crunching the soil of an alien world, will one day propel us to the stars.

Great posts. Thanks:)

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As an American, the STS program was what I grew up with, so I can't help but feel more than a little nostalgic about it.

Even if the financial goals of the partially reusable launch system never really materialized, the Space Shuttle was still an incredible, no, amazing feat of engineering.

Also, not to diminish the unforgettable tragedies of STS 51-L and STS 107, but two hull losses out of 131 missions remains an incredibly impressive safety record, given the immense complexity of the launch system.

For someone who wasn't alive during the Apollo era, the Space Shuttle was as close as we got to magic. Godspeed STS!

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The Space Shuttle was the biggest waste of time and money since the US military, and the SLS/Obama-Constellation-rebrand isn't doing much better either

If you are not a big fan of SLS then you are in good company: Obama doesn't like it either. He has publicly stated on several occasions that he would lkie to see more commercial orbital launches, and his budget requests reflect that. Congress, on the other hand, sees the SLS as a jobs program, and they really don't care quite as much if it never makes it off the ground, but they don't want to spend money on commercial.

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If you are not a big fan of SLS then you are in good company: Obama doesn't like it either. He has publicly stated on several occasions that he would lkie to see more commercial orbital launches, and his budget requests reflect that. Congress, on the other hand, sees the SLS as a jobs program, and they really don't care quite as much if it never makes it off the ground, but they don't want to spend money on commercial.

Personally, I like what NASA is doing; giving control of LEO space transport to private companies, while innovating and pushing the boundaries of human exploration. I do want to see humans back on the Moon within a reasonable time scale. LEO is nice and all; the space shuttle was a beautiful craft which was an icon, both then and in the future, and I'll miss it, but not the program itself.

As our good friend Konstantin Tsiolkovsky said:

Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.
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If they just continued with Apollo and the Space Race still continued(although without violent conflict) I can't imagine what could have been the technology today, We might have a large moon outpost by now and a decent colony on mars and just starting to do terraforming

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NASA started off with a perfect combination of political will and government-corperate cooperation, and got to the moon in under a decade from the goal being set with an excellent booster rocket that managed 4000-8000 adjusted dollars per lbs to orbit. Afterwards it all collapsed because of political stupidy combined with nasa engineer in a euphoric high from the moon landings thinking they could do anything without considering cost or reality. Politics killed the Apollo program and NASA in a state of abject delusions put all its hopes and dreams on the space shuttle program, a program that really should have been put on the back burners until the technology was ready like by the 1990's or even 2000's to build a 2 stage fully-reusable rocket. The cooperate contracts really started bleeding nasa dry with request that the space shuttle use ATKs boosters, could luanch military payloads into odd orbits, etc, trying to turn the space shuttle already overbearing task of reusability into a swiss army rocket that appeased everyone, resulting in a design that appeased no one.

Really the space shuttle should have started out as a much more limited reusable upper stage place on a standard Saturn I, Saturn downgrade or Titan rocket that would have revealed problems like the cermic thermal tiles being hell to manage and thus future designs using much stronger-easier to manage metal alloy tiles or even spray/plaster-on ablatives ala Space X. That knowledge would have allowed for the creation of truly excellent space shuttle with all the teething problems solves before it was designed and built.

Ok yes woulda-shoulda-coulda, what is the lessons to learn so a mistake like the space shuttle does not happen again:

- Politics can't be trusted: it worked once but now all it manages to do is create one bloated contracted-out program after another, the space shuttle then Constellation now SLS, each one an increasing degeneration of the former created by lack of money conflicting with goals too grand. The solution MAYBE to let corporations build it all for NASA, like SpaceX, this of course depends on if SpaceX can really deliver, so far they have, and may prove that single contracts with minimal sub-contracting is the solution to space travels cost problem, perhaps if SpaceX rally does deliver on their price promises they will have proven that the whole problem with space travel costs had nothing to do with space travel its self and everything to do with contract lawyers and lobbyist raping NASA and the government for every dollar they could thrust out.

- If it works don't replace it: This was a lesson most definitely not learn, not even after Mike Griffins jaring speech on how we should have stayed with Apollo. The Constellation program for example had the appearance of being a shuttle derived booster but in fact almost everything was changed out: bigger wider fuel tank, longer boosters, new engines, original upper stage, etc, etc. Instead of created a Direct style or Shuttle C rocket using as much of the shuttle parts as possible (and thus least money and time) that would have had a reasonable launch capacity of 75 tons to Lbs, thus tripling the lift capacity without having to pay the expense of refurbishing a shuttle, they set out for grander goals that was guaranteed to go beyond their pathetic budget, they wanted lift capacities beyond Apollo, a whole family or rockets before they even had the ones working, etc, the result was perpetual delays and over costs and rightful termination. Now they have returned to a more shuttle derived design but its too late, no infrastructure from the shuttle program remains, might as well build a whole new rocket now!

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As has been said before, I won't miss the shuttle program, but the shuttle itself was pretty cool looking. Space travel is really in the hands of the private sector now, and that is a good thing. Look at SpaceX, they've managed to accomplish every goal they've set for themselves, and I have high hopes for their future endeavors. And then there's Ad Astra Rocket Company run by a former astronaut who have developed a working ion engine (look up VASIMR for more details). And while we wait for NASA to make a vehicle capable of getting to space, we still have Soyuz, which has an incredibley high safety record, especially when compared to say, a space shuttle.

It's also interesting to note that NASA's current budget is almost 10% of what it's budget was during the Apollo era, yet the government wants them to send people to Mars by 2030. At the current rate their going, NASA might not have even gotten back to the Moon by then, and SpaceX will be exploring the Jovian system.

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