Monday, June 17, 2013

On the lasting importance of the SpaceX accomplishment, Page 5: a letter to the European space industry.

Copyright 2013 Robert Clark

Subject : A low cost, all European, manned launcher.
Date :     Sun, Jun 16, 2013 07:37 AM EDT
From :     "Robert Clark" <****@****>
To :     ****@****

 This article discusses the possibility of using the ATV as a manned spacecraft:

Shifting Constellations: Europe Eyes China in Space Race.
By Kevin Holden Platt in Beijing February 08, 2013 – 03:17 PM

 Russia and China have their own manned spaceflight program, as will the U.S. once again soon. Even India and Japan are planning their own manned spaceflight programs. The European Union has been the greatest economic power in the world or a close second to the U.S. over the last few years. European space advocates then should regard it as unacceptable that Europe has no plans to develop a manned spaceflight capability.

 The main impediment has been cost. But such costs would be reduced greatly if the focus was on small rather than large. The ATV is a large, expensive spacecraft as is the Ariane 5. But there is no need to have a spacecraft as large as the ATV simply to carry a crew, or a rocket as large as the Ariane 5 to launch them to orbit. My recommendation is instead to adapt, for example, the much smaller Cygnus, designed and built in Italy, for the purpose.

 This would allow a much smaller vehicle of Ariane 6 size to be used as the launcher. The complaint that the Cygnus does not have life support or a heat shield is not valid since that would have to be provided to the ATV as well. Another possibility for the capsule would be the 'Magic Dragon' capsule developed by Elson Space:

PICTURE: UK built SpaceX capsule revealed.
By: ROB COPPINGER LONDON 11:25 15 Apr 2008

 For this to be the case, you would have to adopt the liquid-fueled version for the Ariane 6, eventhough the solid-fueled version has been decided upon. The Academy of Air & Space in France has criticized the choice of the solid-fueled version on the grounds that it does not advance the technology and has limited flexibility:

Academy Urges Europe To Halt Work on ‘Wrong Choice’ Ariane 6 Design.
By Peter B. de Selding | May. 30, 2013‘wrong-choice’-ariane-6-design#.Ubqa4cu9KSO

 But another key advantage was not mentioned by the Academy, that the liquid-fueled version could serve as a manned launcher. To me this is an overwhelmingly important fact that needs to be mentioned in regards to their relative merits. This would be a profoundly important advance in European technology. Look at how the Chinese space program was regarded as having been advanced by developing its manned spaceflight program.

 Because of this advance, to some the Chinese space program is regarded as having surpassed both the European and American ones. I am aware of the fact that the choice of the solid-fueled Ariane 6 was largely political, shaped by the requirements of geographical return which the ESA has to follow. However, I am a strong proponent of the commercial space approach to launcher/spacecraft development. To me it is an extremely important fact that the costs to the government were reduced by 90%(!) by both SpaceX and Orbital Sciences in developing their respective launchers.

 For a commercial enterprise in the business world, if you found a way to reduce your costs by 90% that would be a development that would be hailed for decades as an extremely important advance. But because space programs are government run this is something that still is only spoken of in hushed tones by NASA.

 Still nevertheless NASA's commercial space program was a tremendous success in producing launchers at greatly reduced costs to the government. Note that NASA was forced to this because of the high cost of producing manned launchers under normal governmental financing procedures. This success then should be modeled by European space agencies in producing manned launchers even if it requires bypassing the ESA, with its geographical return requirements.

 Here I discuss how the liquid-fueled Ariane 6 could serve as a manned spaceflight vehicle:

On the lasting importance of the SpaceX accomplishment, Page 4: how the Ariane 6 can beat both SpaceX and the Russians.

   Bob Clark

Saturday, June 8, 2013

On the lasting importance of the SpaceX accomplishment, Page 4: how the Ariane 6 can beat both SpaceX and the Russians.

Copyright 2013 Robert Clark

Europe Urged To Halt Work on ‘Dead End' Ariane 6 Design.
By Peter B. de Selding | May. 30, 2013
The academy is urging the agencies to stop work on the Ariane 6 they approved in November with a view to beginning full development in 2014. The academy-favored rocket would use liquid propulsion instead of solid, and would face four more years of preparatory work before moving to full development in 2018.
In the meantime, the academy says, Europe should focus on an upgraded heavy-lift Ariane 5 that would fly for a decade before both it and the Europeanized version of Russia’s medium-lift Soyuz rocket are replaced by the all-liquid Ariane 6 in 2027. This rocket, called Ariane 5 ME, has been in design for several years. Continued work on it was approved, alongside Ariane 6, at the November meeting of European Space Agency (ESA) governments.
 The Academy should also emphasize another key advantage of the liquid-fueled version of the Ariane 6 that it could be used for a manned launch vehicle.
 Note that Russia is raising their prices to $73 million per seat or $220 million for three. This is greater than the launch cost of the full 20 metric ton class Ariane 5. The smaller Ariane 6 would certainly be cheaper than that. By producing this liquid fueled Ariane 6, Europe could also get their own manned space flights and more cheaply than by paying the Russians.
 Both Russia and China have their own manned spaceflight programs, as will the U.S. in the near, short time frame. And even India and Japan are planning their own manned spaceflight programs. The Japan case is quite notable in that their plan is to use twin cryogenic engines of similar characteristics to the Vulcain II.
 The European Union has been the highest economic power or a close second to the U.S. in the world over the last few years. It should be regarded as unacceptable by European space advocates, private, governmental, and industry, that there has been no plan to give Europe a manned space program as with these other space agencies.
 Such a manned-capable launcher could be done more quickly and cheaply by using a commercial space approach. The Falcon 9 and the Antares only took 4 years and a few hundred million dollars in development cost that had to be paid by NASA.
 I also estimate the cost per launch of a single stage version could be done for half the $127 million cost given by the Academy in that report for their version of the Ariane 6, vastly undercutting the Russians:

On the lasting importance of the SpaceX accomplishment, Page 3: towards European human spaceflight.

 Here's an argument for producing the Ariane 6 at a faster time frame than just 2027. The Ariane 6 is supposed to be one-half to one-third as expensive as the Ariane 5. The Ariane 5 is already being used to deliver cargo to the ISS but using the very expensive to develop and produce ATV. In fact ESA doesn't want to produce any more ATV's after the last one to launch in 2014.
 But if you have this less expensive launcher in the Ariane 6 then you have a much less expensive route to sending cargo to the ISS. But then you need a pressurized capsule to transport it. Why spend the expense of developing a new small pressurized capsule when you already have one in the European developed Cygnus? (By the way this raises an interesting economic question I'll discuss at the end.)
 SpaceX is charging NASA $133 million to transport a maximum of 6,000 kg to the ISS. Note this is well above the launch cost of the Falcon 9 alone. The large extra cost is due to the use of the expensive Dragon capsule. The Ariane 6 would have comparable payload capacity as the Falcon 9 but using a 2,000 kg lighter capsule in the Cygnus. Then it could be at or above the cargo capability of the Falcon 9 to the ISS. And from the estimated launch cost of the Ariane 6 and the low cost of the Cygnus compared to the Dragon their price could be at or below that of the Falcon 9/Dragon. How's that for wanting to be competitive with SpaceX?
 Now, the Academy wants ESA to make a liquid-fueled version of the Ariane 6 instead of the planned solid-fueled one. Imagine you have that and it is being used to send cargo via the Cygnus capsule to the ISS. It's not much of leap at all that if you add life support and a heat shield to the Cygnus then you would have a European vehicle capable of sending astronauts to the ISS as well. And you could do it at a price to undercut the Russians.
 I want to argue again here for the commercial space approach for accomplishing this. The 2027 time frame for such a liquid fueled Ariane 6 is following the usual glacial pace of government financed space programs. This would be near the end of the ISS (expected) extended life time. However, both SpaceX and Orbital Sciences by following the commercial space approach were able to develop their launchers in 4 years. Commercial space is both cheaper and faster than government space.
 To do the cost sharing of commercial space though the industry partners, or their investors, would have to be convinced it could be profitable. Note that SpaceX has gotten a $1.6 billion contract from NASA for delivering cargo to the ISS. The $127 million per launch cost estimated by the Academy is coming from the large, billion dollar, development costs under the usual governmental financing approach that would need to be recouped. Commercial space has proven though that both total development cost and the portion paid by the government are a fraction of those of the usual governmental financing. Then getting a similar billion dollar ISS supply contract as SpaceX and with a development cost that, literally, might only be a few hundred million dollars, would result in such a contract being highly profitable.

 About that economic question I mentioned above, Orbital Sciences paid for the development of the Cygnus to the Italian Space Agency(ISA). But certainly the ISA would not want to turn over the full rights to the Cygnus to a foreign company. It's quite likely ISA retains ownership of the Cygnus. This becomes interesting in regards to the price they would charge for the Cygnus compared to the price Orbital Sciences would charge.
 Because Orbital paid for the development of the Cygnus they would want to recoup that cost in the price they charge. But the ISA does not have to recover that cost. This means they could charge much less. But then why would anyone pay for the higher cost from Orbital when they could get it cheaper from the ISA?
 A puzzling question. It may be Orbital retains the rights to sell the Cygnus to NASA or even for all American launches.

    Bob Clark

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Budget Moon Flights: letter to NASA.

 Copyright 2013 Robert Clark

 The cost to NASA for lunar or other BEO missions can be cut drastically, perhaps by three orders of magnitude, by following a combination of four cost-cutting approaches.

1.)Commercial space approach. SpaceX and now Orbital Sciences have shown that as much as 90% off of the development cost can be cut by the cost-sharing of the commercial space approach.

2.)Go small. NASA’s SEV weighs about a third that of Orion. Orbital’s Cygnus weighs about a quarter. Imagine how small, and low cost, your lunar mission could be if you only had to transport a quarter of the mass to the Moon.

3.)Use existing components. The huge development costs for the Apollo program and of Constellation were because they had to use all newly developed components. Those costs would be reduced greatly if you only had to adapt already existing components. No Saturn V, Ares V, or SLS, and their huge development costs, required.

4.)Use international partners. The cut in development cost by engaging in cost-sharing is already included in the commercial space approach. However, the cost to NASA can be cut even further by sharing development costs with our international space partners such as the ESA and Japan.

   Bob Clark


Subject :

Budget Moon Flights.

Date :Fri, May 31, 2013 07:40 AM EDT
From :"Robert Clark" <****@****.edu>
To :****.****
 Charles Bolden has said that NASA won't us return to the Moon in our
lifetime. However, it's important to keep in mind that such negative reactions
to lunar return are based on the false premise that such a return has to be
hugely expensive. It doesn't.

 Simply by going small such a return can be done for costs in the range NASA
typically spends on its lowest cost, "discovery class", planetary missions,
i.e., in the range of a few hundreds of millions of dollars. This is very
important because rather than going over the constant wrangling with Congress
about funding such multi-billion dollar missions, NASA can simply pull it out
of their discretionary spending.

  I discuss such low cost flights here:

Budget Moon flights: lightweight crew capsule.

  If one uses false premises, one draws false conclusions. So it's very
important to bring to light the fact that expensive policy decisions are being
made by NASA based on incorrect assumptions.

 Given the success NASA has had at cutting costs with its commercial
spaceflight program, NASA should be directed to solicit proposals from
industry for following the cost-cutting commercial approach to produce
small-sized return to the Moon missions.

  The proposals should have as requirement to use at most a crew capsule the
size of the SpaceX Dragon, which is half-size to NASA’s Orion capsule. And
ideally the capsule should even be the size of Orbital Science’s Cygnus
capsule (adapted to carry crew), which is only one-fourth the size of Orion. 

  Imagine how small, and low cost, a Moon mission could be if you only had to
send one-fourth the mass to the Moon?

  Still, such a small, low cost approach, would be controversial on safety
grounds. Then the Robonaut would be ideal to test the feasibility of such a

SpaceX Dragon spacecraft for low cost trips to the Moon, page 3: Falcon Heavy
for BEO test flights.

 This suggests using the Falcon Heavy test flights beginning in 2014 to do
unmanned test flights to the Moon and to NEO's with the NASA SEV as crew
capsule, "manned" by Robonauts.

 It would be even of lower cost if using the smaller Cygnus as the "crew"
capsule, instead of the SEV. In this case, when carrying Robonauts, you would
not even have to give it life-support, though you would still need to give it
a heat shield. This scenario could be done with a single launch of the Delta
IV Heavy, Ariane 5, or Atlas V 551, no Falcon Heavy needed. 

 Such a mission would have even greater significance if we used it to return
samples from the permanently shadowed craters on the Moon. That way we could
prove definitely that there is abundant water ice on the Moon that can be used
for propellant. Some measurements by the LCROSS mission tentatively have also
identified valuable minerals on the Moon. Then such a sample return could also
provide justification for commercial development of the Moon.

 This scenario with the Cygnus would require one or two half-size Centaur-like
stages. A key viewpoint for such a low cost approach is to use existing
components if possible. Then rather than developing such half-size Centaurs
anew we could use the fact that the ESA already has such stages in the H10-3.
This would actually be beneficial since the current administration wants to
encourage cost-sharing partnerships in space with our international partners
and the ESA wants to do near term robotic Moon missions. We could even use the
German humanoid robot Justin as part of the "crew":

Humanoid Robot Justin Learning To Fix Satellites.
By Erico Guizzo
Posted 17 Jun 2010 | 14:14 GMT

 In addition to partnering with the ESA on such missions, NASA could also
engage in a partnership with the private ventures proposing BEO flights.
Golden Spike, Inc. would be an obvious one but so also would be the asteroid
mining ventures Planetary Resources, Inc. and Deep Space Industries. This is
because flights to many NEO's have a lower delta-v requirement than flights to
the Moon. Then the in-space stages to be used for the Moon flights could also
be used for the flights to the asteroids. Then we could have flights in the
short near term to the asteroids that returned samples that proved
definitively that NEO's can have the trillion dollar deposits of valuable
minerals that has been estimated. 

 SpaceX and now Orbital Sciences have proven that development costs can be cut
by an order of magnitude over those of the traditional fully-government funded
space projects. By following this commercial approach and also going *small*,
the development costs for BEO flights can in fact be cut by orders (plural) of
magnitude over those commonly thought needed.


    Bob Clark