What if he does show up with it when he says he will?

Written by Bob McCormick on 6/18/2008 11:35:00 AM

According to this article, SpaceX and Elon Musk will attempt another countdown attempt sometime between the end of this month to the beginning of the next.

As I've said before - great! I hope they're successful.

On an equally important note: as some of you know, there is currently a planned gap between the retiring of NASA Space Shuttle flights and the start of NASA's successor vehicle, the Orion, of anywhere from 3 to 5 years (all depending on governmental funding). The Orion is designed similar to an Apollo capsule, but larger: it's meant to carry 4 crewmembers. The vehicle is boosted to orbit on a Solid Rocket Booster and External Tank designs based on Space Shuttle efforts.

When NASA is ready again for missions to the Moon, another follow-on vehicle (Ares V) will be used to lift lthe Altair Lunar Lander to orbit. Ares V is also designed around more SRBs and the Shuttle's External Tank. Orion and Ares V will rendezvous and dock with each other, and then go in tandem to the Moon. But before the Lunar missions can start, NASA will use Orion by itself to keep the crew on the Space Station.

But what to do about the Space Shuttle to Orion launch gap, and the need to have crews on the ISS in the meantime??? Currently, NASA is dependent on the Russian Soyuz vehicles to provide the "lifeboat" function needed on ISS. And there's an issue with the Soyuz vehicles - the last two vehicles used for returning the crew to Earth have undergone problematic "ballistic reentries",which expose the crew to much greater g loads then the nominal entry profile (as well as other potential risks). So, "staying the course" may have technical risks above and beyond Russian launch dependency.

Enter SpaceX and Elon Musk. They are currently building a vehicle under NASA's COTS program which will provide unmanned logistics support (propellant, food, water, etc) to ISS. However, the COTS program has a possibility of requesting a human-rated vehicle - which NASA is currently studying whether to do or not. To make things more interesting, SpaceX's CEO has already stated that he could "eliminate" the gap.

Now, I am not working with COTS in any way, so I have no true technical insight as to whether Musk's statement is a boast or a highly probable event. But what if he does show up with a workable, human-rated vehicle in 2011? What of all the design efforts into Orion - and why would NASA need it 4 years later?

It makes me wonder whether the $ being spent on Orion might be better programmed straight into Ares V.

P.S. - Here's a neat video of the proposed SpaceX/Dragon rendezvous and docking for ISS. Check it out!

Related Posts by Categories

Widget by Hoctro | Jack Book
  1. 0 comments: Responses to “ What if he does show up with it when he says he will? ”