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bmacleod
Topic Author
Posts: 2990
Joined: Sat Aug 25, 2001 3:10 am

Next Administration Should Relaunch X-33

Mon Dec 25, 2006 10:39 pm

Face it, the planned Ares RLV isn't fully reusable, only the crew capsule and the lower SRB section returns to Earth. Which is why the next administration must seriously consider re-activating the cancelled X-33/Venturestar RLV which was wiped out in 2001.

Let's hope the next administration has a better vision of space than the current one....
"What good are wings without the courage to fly?" - Atticus
 
Thorny
Posts: 1508
Joined: Thu Jul 07, 2005 8:44 am

RE: Next Administration Should Relaunch X-33

Tue Dec 26, 2006 12:04 am

Quoting Bmacleod (Thread starter):
Which is why the next administration must seriously consider re-activating the cancelled X-33/Venturestar RLV which was wiped out in 2001.

X-33/VentureStar was a sales gimmick designed by Lockheed to prevent someone else winning the contract and threatening their lucrative expendable launch vehicle business. They threw every bell and whistle into their proposal that they could think of, and NASA idiotically (or corruptly, it doesn't really matter which) fell for it hook, line, and sinker. By the time they got a design for a vehicle that might, possibly, actually fly, it was so overweight (it had grown huge wings) that the payload bay was deleted and the payload instead stuck in a pod on the outside.

X-33/Venturestar was a hopeless concept that swallowed lots of money before NASA finally got wise to the con.

There is still hope for low-cost reusable space transport. But it beyond any reasonable doubt will not be built by LockMart or Boeing, who have no incentive to build such a thing, and numerous disincentives for one.

Quoting Bmacleod (Thread starter):
Let's hope the next administration has a better vision of space than the current one....

Whatever you think of Dubya's military misadventures and economy-ruining tax cuts, his space policy has been, by a wide margin, the best we've seen from the White House in the last 35 years. (Quick! What did the Clinton Administration do besides pick the most expensive, complex, and least-likely to succeed successor for the Space Shuttle?) It is vanishingly unlikely that space will be a high-enough profile affair any decade soon that a President will risk significant "political capital" on it.
 
DfwRevolution
Posts: 9307
Joined: Sat Jan 09, 2010 7:31 pm

RE: Next Administration Should Relaunch X-33

Tue Dec 26, 2006 12:41 am

Quoting Bmacleod (Thread starter):
Face it, the planned Ares RLV isn't fully reusable, only the crew capsule and the lower SRB section returns to Earth.

So what? Refurbishing a launch vehicle can cost just as much (if not more) than manufacturing another rocket stage.

The rule of thumb typically requires at least 40 launches per year to justify a reusable system of any kind. That flight rate is impossible to justify with the Ares system.

Quoting Bmacleod (Thread starter):
Which is why the next administration must seriously consider re-activating the cancelled X-33/Venturestar RLV which was wiped out in 2001.

As Thorny said, it was doomed to fail and should have been axed well before 2001. Most X-vehicles only test a limited number of new technologies. The X-33 was a Swiss Army knife of technology way ahead of its time.

Had NASA pursued one X-vehicle to test the aerospike engine, another X-vehicle to test a metallic TPS, and another to test composite structural design, they may have eventually developed all the technologies necessary for a reusable SSTO. But they didn't.
I have a three post per topic limit. You're welcome to have the last word.
 
CTR
Posts: 299
Joined: Tue Jul 05, 2005 4:57 am

RE: Next Administration Should Relaunch X-33

Tue Dec 26, 2006 3:05 am

The entire aerospace industry was shocked when the X-33 was selected by NASA. Based on the "Low Risk Approach" Al Gore claimed was a primary criteria for the shuttle replacement, the DC-X was thought to be the favorite to win. When the X-33 was chosen many felt the only way it could be considered low risk was if the mythical Aurora aircraft was actually real. Subsequent failure to develop the X-33 blew away this theory.

Perhaps the Clinton administration selected the X-33 because they knew it would fail. Total money eventually spent on a failed research program would be far less than proceeding with a successful SSTO operational fleet of aircraft. The Democratic party has never considered space enthusiasts or people working in aerospace industry to be part of their core constituency. A failed X-33 program would give the appearance of supporting space exploration while leaving them more money to spend on social programs.

Thirty eight years ago today man circled the moon for the first time in Apollo 8. As a 10 year old kid, I can I can remember sitting with my family in front of the television listening to Borman, Lovell and Anders read from Genesis.

Who would have imagined then, how little we would have progressed into space almost forty years later.

Merry Christmas,

CTR
Aircraft design is just one big compromise,,,
 
cloudy
Posts: 1613
Joined: Sat Apr 06, 2002 3:23 pm

RE: Next Administration Should Relaunch X-33

Tue Dec 26, 2006 5:08 pm

Quoting CTR (Reply 3):
Perhaps the Clinton administration selected the X-33 because they knew it would fail.

I would not be surprised if that were the case.

What shocked me at the time was that NASA's spokespeople were saying that it was GOOD that the X-33 was the highest risk option. The way to explore and create new technologies is by pushing the edge of the possible. That sounds plausible for an X-craft, but not if it is supposed to be directly scalable to an operational vehicle.

The Venture star reminds me of a concrete canoe contest held every year, I believe, by a group of engineering colleges. It is true that you can learn a lot by trying to make a canoe out of one of the worst possible materials for the purpose. But those same students would never tout a scaled up Concrete canoe for real wilderness travel. That would simply be dumb, but that was what the government actually said it was doing. They tried to build a "concrete canoe" called the X-33. That MAY have been worthwhile - if it didn't cost as much as it did. Planning on an operational follow on with the same purposefully difficult design is simply dumb - especially since there was really no payoff offered by using the VTHL approach.

Another example - there are plenty of awards for firefighters who enter building buildings to rescue people. However, there is no extra award for doing the same while wearing one's birthday suit.

The Vertical Takeoff, Horizontal Landing single stage to orbit vehicle is generally considered a poor option because the vehicle has to withstand stress in many more directions than one that does not have to land on a runway. Landing horizontally adds so many new weight and aerodynamic difficulties that SSTO becomes unfeasible in the opinion of many engineers.

Quoting Thorny (Reply 1):
Quick! What did the Clinton Administration do besides pick the most expensive, complex, and least-likely to succeed successor for the Space Shuttle?

He also helped seal the ISS's white elephant status by turning it into a foreign aid program. Clinton and his bunch thought of NASA's manned space program as a waste of money and he worked as much as possible to minimize it. The sad thing is, he may be right. If we keep relying on government run programs run by a single agency the new sinkhole will be a base on the moon - in maybe 20 years. And that's the best case.

Quoting Thorny (Reply 1):
There is still hope for low-cost reusable space transport. But it beyond any reasonable doubt will not be built by LockMart or Boeing, who have no incentive to build such a thing, and numerous disincentives for one.

Not only is that assessment true, most of NASA should be included in it. NASA's status depends on space travel being expensive. If National Geographic could fund a manned mission to Mars, NASA would lose a great deal of its funding and glory. It would become a smaller version of NOAA (The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration - for those who don't know - which is most of us).

I'm sure if someone makes cheap access to space possible, his solution will have NASA research somewhere in its pedigree. Nasa has invented some amazing stuff, and provided it free for anyone willing to invest. But whoever does it will have to do it with no other help from NASA. Probably, NASA will oppose any such effort at all costs. The manned space flight bureaucracy - and even much of the rest of NASA - likes cheap access to space only for the far future.

Offer cheap access to space SERIOUSLY, in the HERE and NOW and you become NASA's mortal enemy. This doesn't mean NASA people are evil, it just means they are human. Every organization wants to protect its status, and every individual wants to protect his carreer. There are heroic exceptions, but they are fighting against gravity(In more than one way). You can't win against human nature in the long run. You can only find ways to make it work for you...that is why competition and the free market is the way to win.

That means more prizes and competitions. It means taking the management of such prizes and competitions away from NASA - and putting it in the hands of technically competent and unbiased people. It means giving up on the idea that government can make things cheaper. It means more failures, deaths and dissapointments. But at least we will be getting somewhere.
 
grandtheftaero
Posts: 247
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2003 1:05 pm

RE: Next Administration Should Relaunch X-33

Sat Dec 30, 2006 9:09 am

Quoting DfwRevolution (Reply 2):
The rule of thumb typically requires at least 40 launches per year to justify a reusable system of any kind.

DfwRevolution,

Neat info! Do you have a reference for that statement? I'd like to do some more reading on my own. Thanks!
 
DfwRevolution
Posts: 9307
Joined: Sat Jan 09, 2010 7:31 pm

RE: Next Administration Should Relaunch X-33

Sat Dec 30, 2006 9:12 am

Quoting GrandTheftAero (Reply 5):
Neat info! Do you have a reference for that statement? I'd like to do some more reading on my own. Thanks!

No, it's just what I've heard numerous times. Could very well be inaccurate.

I obtained this pearl of wisdom from a discussion on re-usable launch vehicles at this forum that deals entirely with spaceflight discussion:

http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/
I have a three post per topic limit. You're welcome to have the last word.

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