an engineering marvel, but probably not such a good idea. Personally, I think the Space Shuttle was a costly one way trip to nowhere.
- Cheap access to space: throwaways are cheaper.
- Reliable access to space: throwaways are more reliable.
- Evolutionary approach: oh, so what's why we are going back to throwaways.
Seriously, I'm all for the Shuttle as the original concept went, but unfortunately the STS
was hampered by having to do 2 things at once. The whole thing started out as a space taxi for 5-7 people and no cargo. But the payload capacity kept being increased as the Roger Ramjets at NASA upped the requirement to "should replace everything and the kitchen sink". Result: Overweight. Solution (and this is where the insanity comes in): add two solid rockets, something that engineers on man rated craft have always previously shied away from for obvious reasons. While the SRBs are lit, there is NO way to escape in case of a malfunction. Hmmmmm, nice one. So your reliability is abysmal and it's unsafe. (For more info on the development of the Space Shuttle: http://www.astronautix.com/project/sts.htm
. I quote: In the final analysis the shuttle came up short in two areas. First, the shuttle orbiter ended up almost 20% over its specified weight - resulting in it being unable to boost the US Air Force’s payloads into polar orbits from Vandenberg. Lighter filament-would casing Solid Rocket Boosters were being developed for use in flights from Vandenberg, but even this did not seem enough. After the Challenger explosion the USAF was able to extricate itself from the Shuttle program. The Vandenberg launch complex, built at the cost of billions, was mothballed. The Air Force started a new costly development program to design the Titan 4 expendable rocket for its large military payloads. The second was that it failed, by most definitions, to reduce the cost of putting payloads into orbit. The shuttle program inherited from Apollo huge fixed costs - the Manned Spaceflight Center in Houston, the cadres of government and contractor workers at the Kennedy Space Center, and so on. The result was that there is a fixed base cost of around $ 2.8 billion per year, just to keep all those people and facilities in place, even if you don’t conduct any flights at all (as occurred after the shuttle disaster). The marginal cost of each flight added to this base is under $ 100 million per year. Seen this way the shuttle is almost competitive expendable boosters - but doesn’t come anywhere near the reductions NASA promised when development started. But if you divide the usual number of flights per year by the total costs, you come up with a figure of $ 245 million per year, significantly more than a Titan 4 or Proton launch with the same payload.
Ironically, the Air Force and NASA had already developed a shuttle in the early 60's, known as Dynasoar. It would have been cheaper and more reliable, and would have flown almost 20 years before the shuttle. ***SIGH*** (For more info on Dynasoar: http://www.astronautix.com/craft/dynasoar.htm
After Challenger, NASA figured out that they couldn't replace everything with the shuttle. It was too expensive and too unreliable. So what came back: The throwaway. Which by now was cheap and worked like clockwork (see here for the Delta rocket record: http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/space/delta/record.htm
, not bad for a non manrated booster).
And now, after 20 years of iffy, very costly Shuttle ops that have made little improvement on Apollo, what does NASA want? A capsule that would maybe be reusable, but will be sent up on throwaways. Go figure.
Just my €0.02.
EDIT: My friend chatted me. He predicts it will be less than 10 replies before this thread turns into a "Why do you hate the US?" bashfest.
[Edited 2004-03-23 18:48:31]
[Edited 2004-03-23 18:53:50]
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo