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Program is not too risky or too expensive says NASA

The current NASA shuttle fleet is set to retire by the end of 2010 and will be replaced no sooner than 2015 by a new system.

NASA is currently in the design and testing phase on the replacement to the shuttle fleet. NASA is planning on a return to rocket power similar to the method used to get the Apollo 11 astronauts into space for their moon landing. The new space flight program is called constellation and NASA is defending the program asserting that it is not too expensive or too risky.

A committee appointed by President Obama and engineers working on the Constellation program at NASA has had to defend its work to the committee reports MSNBC. Head NASA researchers have spent four years designing the Ares rocket that will replace the shuttle fleet and maintain that the program is the safest and fastest way to get America back into space.

Steve Cook, head of the Ares project said, "We have done what we said we would do, and we are well on the way to our first test flight."

MSNBC reports that other managers on the Ares program told members of the committee that they were working through technical issues with the rocket system. One fear is that powerful energy waves created during launch would injure astronauts or make it impossible for them to perform basic duties. The chance of this happening is admittedly slim according to the managers.

Broad options will reportedly be offered to Obama from continuing to use the shuttle fleet to moving forward with the Constellation program unchanged. The final report from the committee will be presented on August 31. NASA plans to test a version of the Ares I rocket by October 31.

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Energy wave?
By Diesel Donkey on 7/30/2009 3:46:24 PM , Rating: 2
Could somebody shed some light on the source and nature of this dangerous "energy wave"? I've looked around a bit and can't find anything. It sounds like an EM pulse that could knock out the electronics and, if strong enough, mess with the human heart or other organs.

RE: Energy wave?
By Ranari on 7/30/2009 4:10:39 PM , Rating: 5
Honestly? Who knows.

I'd wager those "dangerous energy waves" are people's fear of rockets. Since the shuttle's debut 20 something odd years ago, we've been calling it the "shuttle", and not the "rocket". Now that we're talking about rockets again, it's like people are suddenly terrified that the rockets might explode, or those 3-4G of force astronauts experience during take-off might get them injured.

But it's like, "Hey man, you know what gets the Shuttle into orbit? It's called, get this, A ROCKET! Ho-lee shit!"

RE: Energy wave?
By TheEinstein on 7/30/2009 6:53:56 PM , Rating: 2
Well there is a type of thrust started with the V2 (or waas it the V1?) rocket from WWII Germany.

It's called a pulse based firing. Instead of a sustained rocket thrust there is the kind which literally turns on and off in very rapid pulses.

This can however in many frames create a serious vibrational issue. I suppose if it reached the right harmonics it could cause damage and/or harm. Anything falls apart to the right frequency after all.

And I do know this has been a big thing recently, with more promise than traditional continuous thrust methods.

Research has been indicating that these systems can self regulate thrust and keep it from consuming to much or to little fuel at times. It also allows for different fuels to be explored.

RE: Energy wave?
By Gholam on 7/31/2009 2:47:30 AM , Rating: 2
You're talking about a pulsejet engine:

Obviously not in any way useful for spaceflight, as it cannot function without atmospheric air.

RE: Energy wave?
By pgwulfing on 7/31/2009 11:42:06 AM , Rating: 2
This may be the type of enigne used. NASA put a lot of effort and money into development of the SCRAMJET. It can be used to boost the velocity while the ship is still in the atmosphere. Then, conventional rockets take over.

RE: Energy wave?
By Fritzr on 8/1/2009 6:02:16 AM , Rating: 2
SCRAMJet is a variant of the RAMJet. Most jet engines have a turbine air compressor on the intake end of the engine to create a high pressure air fuel mix for combustion.

RAMJets and their variants do away with the turbine components and use airspeed to 'ram' air into the intake throat where it is compressed by by constriction. The high pressure air fuel mix is then burned in the combustion chamber resulting in even higher pressures that exits through the rear end of the engine.

SCRAMJets are being considered as power plants for the atmospheric flight portion of a rocket launch. The rocket stage would seperate and head for space when the airbreathing engines reach their altitude limit.

A problem all members of the RAMJet family have in common is that they require a high airspeed to keep the intake pressurized. They can be started while stationary by putting a blower in front of the engine, but they require a continuous high speed airflow both to start and keep running.

However the Ares rocket IS a rocket carrying fuel and oxidizer. It will not be using an airbreathing engine for any part of it's flight.

RE: Energy wave?
By drycrust on 7/31/2009 2:37:15 PM , Rating: 2
The V1 and V2 where quite different, like comparing a jet fighter to a rocket.
The V1 was really the first cruise missile. It had wings just like a plane, used a pulsing jet engine, and flew through the air at around 450 mph. This was quite a high speed for that time and did push fighter planes to the limit of their speed. It was also quite dangerous shooting them down, but pilots found by accident that the auto pilot wasn't very good and it could be upset by just flying over the top of it. The British called it the Doodle bug and said that as long as you heard the engine you were safe because it would just keep flying. When the fuel ran out, the engine stopped, and it would fall from the sky and explode on impact.
Several other factors contributed to the demise of the V1, such as the need for a large, difficult to build, conspicuous ramp, that was easily seen on photo reconnaissance; the fact it could only fly in a straight line; and the fact the British improved their fighter / radar guided anti aircraft guns coordination to the point they achieved an near 100% kill rate.
The V2 was almost the first real ICBM rocket. I believe it actually either officially made it into space or was very close to it. It flew straight up, then the fuel ran out and the rocket fell to earth and hit the target. In addition, it needed a considerably smaller launch pad, just several square metres, than the V1, which was much harder to spot with photo reconnaissance. In addition, because most of the flight path being well outside of the flight envelope of any fighter of the time, and the fact the British didn't have any anti-missile technology (even radar guided flak was ineffective), it was essentially immune to being shot down after the first minute of flight.
There were several factors that worked against it though. Firstly was the fact that by the time it became operational the Allies had already landed in Normandy and thus the "in range" territory was shrinking (I didn't say "launch sites" because it just needed a small launch pad which was very easy to set up).
Next was the fact the Enigma code had been compromised and all the German spies in Britian were double agents, thus the British fed false "strike" information to the Germans, saying the rockets were landing outside of London (when they were actually hitting the middle), so the Germans corrected their aim so they'd hit the centre of London (when in fact the rockets then landed outside of London).
But even with these factors, the V2 was essentially immune to being shot down after the first minute of flight. So although it could be seen being launched on radar, there was little that could be done to stop it (except start the air raid sirens). In addition, it was essentially silent, so the populous just heard a loud explosion.
I think the last V2 launch (in anger) was in the last week of the war.

It doesn't make sense to get worried about an "energy wave" unless they are using some sort of ion rocket. Yes, you get an energy wave with a normal rocket too, but the effect of it is limited to the immediate launch site whereas an ion rocket may actually produce electromagnetic radiaton which (in the absence of shielding) could travel a long way.

RE: Energy wave?
By CheesePoofs on 7/30/2009 4:11:25 PM , Rating: 5
It's just vibrations. Because the first stage is solid fuel powered it's power effectively pulses, generating strong vibrations up and down the rocket. On the shuttle this isn't a problem because the external tank acts as a giant damper, but without that there are fears the vibrations could cause damage.

RE: Energy wave?
By Diesel Donkey on 7/30/2009 5:12:21 PM , Rating: 2
Ah, got it. Thanks.

RE: Energy wave?
By FPP on 7/30/2009 7:44:55 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly. It is vibrations from the shock wave of the solid booster. Curious that, with all the data from shuttle launches, this would not have been ruled out before now.

RE: Energy wave?
By stromgald30 on 7/31/2009 8:10:45 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, I guess it's back to finding people with 'the right stuff' to send up there. No more cushy shuttle tourist rides.

who is NASA defending against?
By wauteep on 7/31/2009 12:34:49 AM , Rating: 2
Not to sound like an idiot but who is criticizing the new rocket system? I'm pretty sure there are smart engineers working to design the new NASA systems, wouldn't they know what they're doing and whether something is even safe enough to try on astronauts?

RE: who is NASA defending against?
By CBRbrutha on 7/31/2009 7:39:11 AM , Rating: 1
ask the Challenger crew

By MrBlastman on 7/31/2009 12:43:46 PM , Rating: 2
Oh that's not fair. All spaceflight has a degree of risk and the astronauts on it knew that. All of them do.

It is infeasible and impossible to imagine a space program that would have any way of being successful if they were bent on being 100% risk free, all the time. The only way to push the envelope is to take risks from time to time, albeit educated risks, they still have to be taken.

RE: who is NASA defending against?
By boogle on 8/1/2009 4:29:01 AM , Rating: 3
Ask everyone who died in a car accident. If we can't get road travel 100% safe - how is space travel meant to be 100% safe? I'm amazed we don't have rockets blowing up all over the place, or rockets ending up completely off course.

RE: who is NASA defending against?
By abraxas1 on 7/31/2009 8:11:32 AM , Rating: 3
It's being questioned by other smart engineers,

RE: who is NASA defending against?
By TMV192 on 7/31/2009 9:41:13 AM , Rating: 2
the second Augustine Commission
the first one put Human spaceflight last on a list of 5 objectives for NASA (1990)

RE: who is NASA defending against?
By Major HooHaa on 7/31/2009 7:58:39 PM , Rating: 2
I think that it is sad that the reusable shuttle comes to the end of its life and we haven't got around to engineering a replacement. First, the loss of the ability to go to the moon, then the loss of a reusable launch vehicle. Another step backwards for mankind.

Does anyone know if it would be possible to carry out something like the Hubble repair missions using a rocket?

Also if there are any problems with building a new rocket (energy waves?) then go and ask the people who did it with 60's technology.

With the recent 40th anniversary, it surprised me that the astronaut’s moon lander had just over 64 KB's of RAM in their onboard computer and that they had to complex math on the fly, on paper. Now that's impressive, considering that Windows Vista on a desktop P.C. requires a good 2,097,152 KB's of RAM (or 2 Gigabytes) to run efficiently.

On the flipside though, we have an opportunity here. We could have an international space programme where the Space Station, going to the Moon and Mars could be just the beginning. I also think that what the Hubble Space Telescope has showed us about the universe is quite mind blowing! More of the same please NASA.

By stromgald30 on 7/31/2009 8:20:17 PM , Rating: 2
Large payloads like a space telescope or large space telescope repair components will be launched on an EELV or Ares V.

The Ares I can only carry a small payload and crew. The crew would then rendezvous with the parts/payload and perform repairs outside the vehicle. They won't be able to bring it into a contained bay like in the Shuttle, but I don't think that's a major loss.

A more significant loss I think is not being able to bring cargo down easily. The shuttle was designed to bring something like Hubble back down for repairs. That won't be possible with the new Constellation system.

Then again, bringing anything big down with the shuttle has never been tried due to worries about extra entry mass.

Magnetic launch pad?
By SiN on 7/31/2009 8:53:35 AM , Rating: 2
I mean, come on... I know magnetic platforms are expensive, but once you have an electro magnetic platform the thing runs relatively inexpensively, if circular you have an infinite runway to reach high speeds and redirect onto an offshoot for launch.

If the track has the optimum curvature and the vessel is built right. I'm sure you could deliver a better payload, heck stick some rockets on the vessel so that once it's got lift and it needs the extra kick, smaller safer rockets are already on board.

If i had money and power, i would put innovative new tech on the map.

The idea is practically the same as the partial accelerator. I don't think these nasa boffins are as smart as they let on to be. Neither is any government.

RE: Magnetic launch pad?
By rtrski on 7/31/2009 9:25:14 AM , Rating: 3
The idea is practically the same as the partial accelerator.

I prefer complete accelerators, myself. Accelerating different parts of my body, crewmates, and vehicle at different rates and on different vectors results in a most unpleasant dis-associative experience commonly referred to as painful dismemberment.


RE: Magnetic launch pad?
By guacamojo on 7/31/2009 10:52:15 AM , Rating: 3
Subatomic particles don't care about acceleration, either.

Suppose we took your suggestion and had a crewed (or even unmanned) vehicle, going around a 10 km diameter ring (like the LHC) at 7,800 m/s (orbital velocity). The vehicle would experience a radial acceleration of 1,241 G. And that's even neglecting the extra delta-V you'd need because of atmospheric drag.

To limit vehicle acceleration to a human-friendly 3g's, you'd need a circular track 4,136 km in diameter. That's almost 13,000 km of accelerator track (length), or 17% of the Interstate Highway System. Linear would be better; it'd only need to be 1,034 km long. Heck, you could fit it into Texas with a couple hundred km to spare!

With a launch velocity that high (mach 23), you'd have higher-than-reentry atmospheric heating effects, plus enormous shock waves at the point of departure from the accelerator (you were planning to accelerate the vehicle in a vacuum, right?)

I'll take the rocket. It sounds safer and less expensive.

RE: Magnetic launch pad?
By cludinsk on 7/31/2009 11:04:55 AM , Rating: 2
i remember the discussions in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress about locating one of these on a mountain near the equator (and it was cargo only).

By FITCamaro on 7/30/2009 3:41:01 PM , Rating: 2
Are you guys just quoting MSLSD now?

By ClownPuncher on 7/30/2009 5:15:37 PM , Rating: 2
At least with an article like this, where they can't really put a spin on it, why does it matter?

By teldar on 7/30/09, Rating: 0
By Belard on 7/31/2009 6:11:02 AM , Rating: 2
And of course you have to enjoy your FIXNews... :)

NASA is lying!
By Smilin on 7/31/2009 1:21:24 PM , Rating: 2
These "technical issues" they are trying to get past have nothing to do with astronauts being injured or unable to function.

NASA is just concerned about the bad press that will result when unusually strong sound waves and vibrations cause the astronauts to sh1t themselves during takeoff. They've already had one really bad "astronauts wearing depends" incident recently.

RE: NASA is lying!
By boogle on 8/1/2009 4:37:31 AM , Rating: 3
The original astronauts who climbed on top of the Saturn rockets were real hard nuts. In interviews they said how they thought the vibrations were too severe and they were gonna be killed. Yet the guy with the emergency stop took his hand off because he couldn't hold it without accidentally triggering it due to said vibrations. Yes that's right 'we're gonna die, so I'm taking my hand off the emergency eject/stop'.

Turns out he would rather have died on the rocket than failed the nation by falsely ejecting. That's the right stuff, right there.

By joeld on 7/30/2009 9:07:28 PM , Rating: 3
is that a euphemism for "they can't breathe during initial launch"?

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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