Jimbobq11

What if the Space Shuttle Program had done its job?

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33 minutes ago, JEF_300 said:

Actually, they built the infrastructure at Vandenburg, as I recall. I mean, they must of, because the first launch from Vandenburg was scheduled for later in 1986 or 1987, but then Challenger :(

Completely finished by time of Challenger, and had completed fit checks with Enterprise. Was even larger than the shuttle facilities at the cape;

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Folks, just a friendly reminder that we're dealing with a 3-years-dead thread, here.  So please bear that in mind when considering whether (and what) to post.

Nothing wrong with reviving a thread if it's still relevant and/or you have something worthwhile to add, but try to avoid doing so without realizing it, as such posts can sometimes provoke strong reactions.  ;)

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On 11.8.2013 at 3:49 AM, B787_300 said:

uuuuuuuuuuuummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, it most certainly was not, now the military had a hand in it becasue NASA got some legislation that said all US Satellite launches were to be done using the Space Shuttle... but they did not have too much of a part in it, and it was most certainly not made for the military originally.

Think the military was very quick with keeping their old launchers as they saw that the shuttle was not able to keep that up.
Shuttle was oversold a lot to get it sold, this is standard for lots of stuff from custom software to aircraft. 
Sometime this work nice and you solve the issues, other times you end above cost and below performance, worst case you get an turkey. 

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16 hours ago, Snark said:

Folks, just a friendly reminder that we're dealing with a 3-years-dead thread, here.  So please bear that in mind when considering whether (and what) to post.

Nothing wrong with reviving a thread if it's still relevant and/or you have something worthwhile to add, but try to avoid doing so without realizing it, as such posts can sometimes provoke strong reactions.  ;)

Yeah, you pretty much nailed that one. Whoops

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In case someone forgot to cite the thing that Shuttle were designed for : they've build and serviced the LEO Space Station well. Just like how it was envisioned in the original Space Transportation System plan. And a heft of other launch/service job... (satellites, Hubble, Ulysses)

Overpriced ? Well it did the job surely.

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If it had done its job stuff would be great. An LEO space station, huge satellite networks, space tugs moving satellites to different orbits, a massive space base, a GEO space station, space tugs and nuclear tugs shuttling people and cargo to and from a space station in lunar orbit, a huge moon base, a Mars orbit station, a Mars base, the first people on Mars in 1985, IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Too bad it didn't happen.

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Gerard K Oneill based his studies on the success of the shuttle program. So we'd probably get Island  One at the least, maybe Island Two by now. If we were really lucky, then we could have Island Three.

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2 hours ago, Emperor of the Titan Squid said:

If it had done its job stuff would be great. An LEO space station, huge satellite networks, space tugs moving satellites to different orbits, a massive space base, a GEO space station, space tugs and nuclear tugs shuttling people and cargo to and from a space station in lunar orbit, a huge moon base, a Mars orbit station, a Mars base, the first people on Mars in 1985, IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Too bad it didn't happen.

Then what about ISS ? IUS ? TDRS ? Basically it's the same with Space Station, Tugs and Satellite Networks.

The only thing that plagued Shuttle was the fact that it's a one-for-all machine from start. It has to resupply a space station - no, it has to be the space station (since the space station were initially canceled), it has to be able to do spying (when USAF cancelled MOL), and it has to carry (and return, according to some source in Wiki) massive spy satellite (DOD).

Had it started from something waay simpler, probably they'd be able to learn what's what. Much like Falcon 1 -> Falcon 9 v1 (big leap) -> Falcon 9 v1.1 (engine streamlining, which I think helped structural integrity) -> Falcon 9 v1.2 and Falcon 9R (reusability) -> Falcon Heavy (another big leap), etc. It could have gone with a smaller spaceplane, followed by an upscale, bigger wing, longer fuselage, and so on. I mean, their contractor must also be used to that (say, 737-100 and 737-1000 has a lot in common bar size and tweaks and modernization).

For those in disagreement, I do see the potential problem though.

Edited by YNM

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On 4/12/2016 at 8:46 PM, YNM said:

Then what about ISS ? IUS ? TDRS ? Basically it's the same with Space Station, Tugs and Satellite Networks.

The only thing that plagued Shuttle was the fact that it's a one-for-all machine from start. It has to resupply a space station - no, it has to be the space station (since the space station were initially canceled), it has to be able to do spying (when USAF cancelled MOL), and it has to carry (and return, according to some source in Wiki) massive spy satellite (DOD).

Had it started from something waay simpler, probably they'd be able to learn what's what. Much like Falcon 1 -> Falcon 9 v1 (big leap) -> Falcon 9 v1.1 (engine streamlining, which I think helped structural integrity) -> Falcon 9 v1.2 and Falcon 9R (reusability) -> Falcon Heavy (another big leap), etc. It could have gone with a smaller spaceplane, followed by an upscale, bigger wing, longer fuselage, and so on. I mean, their contractor must also be used to that (say, 737-100 and 737-1000 has a lot in common bar size and tweaks and modernization).

For those in disagreement, I do see the potential problem though.

The space base would have been much larger than ISS

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Guess ISS isn't even a space base... Still a massive thing though. 420 tons, compare that with Mir's ~130 tons or Skylab's mere ~70 tons.

Edited by YNM

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On 4/15/2016 at 3:06 AM, YNM said:

Guess ISS isn't even a space base... Still a massive thing though. 420 tons, compare that with Mir's ~130 tons or Skylab's mere ~70 tons.

Didn't you know, space base significance is signified by the number of exclamation points that come after their name, not what it actually does.

ISS

Freakin big station!

Really freaking big station!!

Ginoromous really freaking big station!!!

and [drum roll]

" Mars orbit station, a Mars base, the first people on Mars in 1985, IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "

If wishes were horses beggars would ride. Its interesting how people put all the onus on the USA to get folks to Mars, If the shuttle was so bad the ESA or the Russians could have put up the money to launch their own high traffic high capacity repair-ready orbiter. Look at space X, they have been only at this for 5 years. Surely one of these two great space powers can come up with something that can haul humans, launch satellites, repair space telescopes, 1/2 build a space station, the shuttle was such a failure by joove any simple minded political body could have invented and put into place a more modern alternative.

 

 

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Folks lets not start making this political or start resorting to any kind of personal attacks.

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Hope this is not bad form to continue this thread given it is so old and went dormant for so long . . . however . . . I've been thinking about the shuttle history lately, and more broadly about the last 20 years of the last century. I reread much of this thread and it seems to me that a lot of the discussion was missing the forest by focusing too much on the trees.

I think there are at least three different questions, or ways to parse the question posed by the OP:

1. Was the shuttle an optimum design? (compared to other options)

2. Did the shuttle achieve its mission(s)? (did it 'get things done?)

3. Did the shuttle achieve its "vision?" Or was the shuttle a "dead-end?"

Number 1, I really cannot comment on, and I think you need to be a techno-expert to be able to. Ultimately it seems irrelevant to me in that, a bit of increased efficiency here or reduced cost there would not it seems have been a killer; this seems obvious from the fact that the STS flew for so long and so many missions.

Number 2: Obviously the answer to this is YES! Hubble, that by itself is sufficient to confirm that the STS "achieved" success in individual missions. My understanding is that knowledge gained from Hubble has effectively revolutionized astronomy and our understanding of cosmology, so that alone seems to have been a gigantic "success." But then we add to that the myriad other payloads it delivered into orbit:

Quote

Notable payloads


Tracking and Data Relay Satellites
Spacelab
Hubble Space Telescope
Galileo, Magellan, Ulysses
Mir Docking Module
ISS components

Now to question Number 3 Did the shuttle achieve its "vision?" Or was the shuttle a "dead-end?"

My understanding was that it was not intended to be a "dead-end" it was intended to be a watershed towards a new era, in which spaceflight would become cheap, commonplace and highly useful. I think that one can answer this question with "NO" fairly confidently; it did turn out to be a "dead-end." However, sometimes exploration requires one going down a dead-end to confirm it is a dead-end. One might have to ask: Would any of the other contemporary projects that intend to achieve the shuttles "vision" be remotely feasible (or even conceivable) had the shuttle never occurred?

As someone who was a teen when the shuttle program began, I can tell you, looking back on it, and that era more generally is a bit bitter-sweet. In the late 1980s we really BELIEVED that we were going to be well-advanced toward something like "Star Trek" by this time.

I believe this particular song/Youtube mix does a good job of conveying the sense of giddy anticipation, not only for the results of a specific shuttles "countdown," but of the STS program more generally as a "countdown" for humanity toward our "ascendance" into full-fledged space farers, a future era when "super-science Mingles with the bright stuff of dreams . . ."


In achieving this "vision" the shuttle doesn't seem to have delivered, although, as I said, maybe the eventual model that does make space travel cheap, easy and comfortable will depend on lessons learned from the shuttle?

Edited by Diche Bach
clarify

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The Shuttle program absolutely did its job. The job was that it was a technical jobs program. It employed a lot of people at great cost, that's what it was for.

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1 hour ago, Diche Bach said:

...

3. Did the shuttle achieve its "vision?" Or was the shuttle a "dead-end?"

...

In achieving this "vision" the shuttle doesn't seem to have delivered, although, as I said, maybe the eventual model that does make space travel cheap, easy and comfortable will depend on lessons learned from the shuttle?

The vision was good. Then the vision was retracted.

EDIT : Further read I just found on the other thread : http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/07/a-cold-war-mystery-why-did-jimmy-carter-save-the-space-shuttle/2/

Edited by YNM

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5 minutes ago, YNM said:

The vision was good. Then the vision was retracted.

Interesting stuff! I guess one school-boys dream of being an adult EVA construction worker serving the permanent Earth Space Port, is the "iceberg-tip" of his nation's strategic Cold War concerns and objectives!  :D

*sigh* I do _sort of_ miss the Cold War . . . though the everyday "daydreaming" about nuclear apocalypse is something I'm glad we've put behind us (even if it is technically no less fearful than it ever was).

The same can be said about the all the massive successes on which the STS was built: Mercury, Gemini, Apollo <-- all in large part "propelled" by a vision to "beat the Commies" in the space race . . .

Maybe if there was a perceived need to develop optimally efficient methods to get payloads to orbit, and use that to build a permanent orbital construction yard / depot so as to "defeat Daesh" we'd find ourselves "lit up with anticipation" once more, and Musk, et al., would find themselves super-charged with funds, enthusiasm and support?

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To me the fatal flaw was mentioned earlier in this thread... you send 80 tons of orbiter and 25 tons of payload into orbit. Even if they had a ridiculous launch rate, the space shuttle would still lose economically... although if you look at the marginal cost of adding another shuttle, its not soo bad. It does speak to the promise of reusability that the marginal cost gets so close to competing in cost per ton with disposables, when over 3/4 of the mass they get into orbit is just orbiter mass that they bring back down again.

Did it do its job? What was its job?

From the technical point of view - it put payload/crew into orbit, while allowing most of the components to be re-used: Check

- it could service existing hardware in space (hubble): Check

Economic view one - It failed to reduce launch costs, and actually massively increased them: Fail

Economic view two - It provided many engineering jobs and maintained american technical expertise in the field of spaceflight: check

Furthering space exploration - funding for this prevented more saturnVs or other projects, it put mars out of reach, and kept robotic missions from getting funding. But hubble was cool: I'm going ot give it a fail here, but not as hard as the other fails.

 

Space X has the right way of doing it: reuse the booster.

Some other companies are looking into just reusing engines - which may be good for upper stages.

The shuttle was just too big for a glorified payload fairing+ crew capsule+ engine cluster. It brought way too much mass into orbit that wasn't payload.

The downmass capability and corss range capability were never used, and should not have been designed into something that was meant mostly for, and used almost exclusively for bulk payload delivery.

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We honestly don't know if SpaceX has the right way of doing it. They have yet to reuse one, and unless we have a reason to use a booster many times, I'm not sure where savings really matters (that idea is predicated on a much higher launch cadence than we actually need right now).

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Ok, well, I *think* they have the right way of doing it, because they add less total mass to the launch system, they recover much earlier when its easier to recover... ie before all that thermal shielding is needed. The lower stages are most of the cost anyway. They gave up on a reusable upper stage - at least for now. Keeping in mind that any mass added to the upper is going to be proportionally multiplied in mass needed in the lower stage. The way they do it keeps the upper stage as light as possible, and avoids that terrible shuttle situation where over 3/4 of the mass that your bring to orbit is non-payload mass. That is massively inefficient, and would still have made the shuttle cost inefficient even if they could have those massive launch rates that they wanted.

SpaceX basically gets around that by conceeding that the upper is disposable. Thus they should at least be able to decrease launch costs in theory with a high launch rate, which is something that the shuttle could never do - it would just be less of a waste of money per launch if they launched it more often.

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On 4/16/2016 at 7:44 PM, Frybert said:

Folks lets not start making this political or start resorting to any kind of personal attacks.

I'm pretty sure you can't have a thread on the political decisions that went into the directions NASA went without at least a five minute hate toward Proxmire.  For those too young to remember, Proxmire was NASA's biggest enemy and a firm believer that the federal government only existed to provide cheese subsidies (he was a senator from Wisconsin).

2 hours ago, tater said:

The Shuttle program absolutely did its job. The job was that it was a technical jobs program. It employed a lot of people at great cost, that's what it was for.

Only in the sense that *everything* that Congress does is a jobs program.  If they really wanted a jobs program, they would have simply extended the Apollo program (possibly at starvation levels) much like SLS prolongs the Shuttle program.  It was really to different to be merely a jobs program, but cut enough to not really do the job.

Employing a ton of people was pretty critical in maintaining the shuttle program through 100+ launches.  If you want over a hundred launches, you have to convince somebody to pay for it someway or another.

28 minutes ago, KerikBalm said:

SpaceX basically gets around that by conceeding that the upper is disposable. Thus they should at least be able to decrease launch costs in theory with a high launch rate, which is something that the shuttle could never do - it would just be less of a waste of money per launch if they launched it more often.

While I've often thought that this was the "problem" with the shuttle, I'm not so sure anymore.  Assuming that a proper escape system would make Challenger survivable, I can't really fault the "recoverable to orbit" assumptions of the shuttle.  A bigger thing is that by discarding the upper stage is avoiding that whole "return the entire cargo bay" which I assume is the biggest issue in the whole thing.

In any event, taking 3 times your maximum lift capacity to orbit as mere dry weight was a disaster.

 

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57 minutes ago, wumpus said:

Only in the sense that *everything* that Congress does is a jobs program.  If they really wanted a jobs program, they would have simply extended the Apollo program (possibly at starvation levels) much like SLS prolongs the Shuttle program.  It was really to different to be merely a jobs program, but cut enough to not really do the job.

Yes, basically everything that Congress does is pork for the districts involved. NASA has always been, and will always be a pork program as the primary goal as far as the people who make funding decisions it are concerned. That it does anything else is secondary, even if that secondary goal is all that matters for those of us not on the payroll. STS (the full-Monty, not what we got) was of course a real glint in the eye idea from NASA, but what was passed/built  was nothing at all like the initial design goal. Subsequent jobs and accomplishments attributed to Shuttle could have been done cheaper/better with expendable LVs. ISS, etc, were built to fit into Shuttle. HST repair is usually touted, but minus the massive costs of Shuttle, it would have been cheaper to just build and launch a new HST, frankly (in a fantasy world where NASA gets the same budget, and is only concerned with doing what they want to do spending money however they like).

That's the problem with threads like these and the "no politics" aspect. All public spending is by definition political, and the "goals" of government programs are also always political.

Edited by tater

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28 minutes ago, tater said:

That's the problem with threads like these and the "no politics" aspect. All public spending is by definition political, and the "goals" of government programs are also always political.

Good point. Closed.

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