Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Reuse, reliability will launch future, expert says

Date:
September 7, 2011
Source:
NASA
Summary:
Engineers have successfully completed the first of a series of acoustic tests on the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) ground test vehicle, which consists of two major components of the Orion spacecraft: the crew module and the launch abort system. Built to spaceflight specifications, the Orion MPCV ground test vehicle is the first full-scale spacecraft built to support the development of the final human space flight vehicle, which is slated for its first orbital flight test in about two years.

A reliable and reusable booster that encompasses several emerging technologies will be crucial to developing a space launch architecture that drives down the price of delivering passengers and payloads into space or for carrying cargo around the world in two hours or less, according to a study of spaceflight's future.
Credit: NASA artist's concept

Driving down the price of taking people and cargo into space or to the other side of the world in two hours will depend on developing a system so reliable and reusable that a thousand flights or more can take place in a year, a space launch expert told a group of engineers and others Aug. 31 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center.

Related Articles


It's not a launch scenario envisioned for the immediate future, but it could develop in the decades afterward, Jay Penn of Los Angeles-based The Aerospace Corporation said during his "Beyond Next Generation Access to Space" presentation. The company studied potential business cases for pursuing different launch strategies.

The cost of taking a pound of anything into space ran about $10,000 aboard the space shuttle, but that price tag would fall dramatically if space agencies and companies model their research on developing launch systems on the commercial airline and air cargo industries, Penn said.

"Commercial aircraft operate at $2 to $3 per pound of payload around the world, but space is 5,000 times that," Penn said.

Getting the space transportation business down to that cost means building vehicles that are designed for operability -- that is much less maintenance between flights with rapid turnaround to support much higher flight rates. Evolving systems that deliver people and cargo to anywhere on the planet in less than two hours, for example, will need to make multiple trips in the same day and operate out of three or more hubs around the world.

His study has shown that some new applications could emerge in the coming years to accelerate the demand for frequent and lower cost access to space. In fact, the development of such reusable and operable systems will require the promise of higher demand to justify their development. Among the markets that could provide that spark are orbital space tourism, even limited demand for space-based solar power generation, and high speed transport services to travel from point-to-point on the planet.

"That's where you need to spend your energy, to make aircraft-like operations for these kinds of vehicles," Penn said.

Kennedy, with unique facilities such as the Vehicle Assembly Building and a runway long enough to host space-going vehicles, could find itself in key support roles for the new spacecraft.

Jim Ball, the deputy of Kennedy's Center Planning and Development Office, said his office is leading the effort to craft a future development concept and revised master plan for KSC to position it for future needs. The plan will provide a guide for the overall development of the center for the next several decades, Ball said.

Penn's study was not necessarily a prediction of where the space launch industry will be in the coming decades as much as a look at what it could be. For now, NASA is focused on a budding commercial industry aiming to launch cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station. The agency is also working toward a launch and space infrastructure supporting astronauts on missions to an asteroid, the moon or Mars.

So what would the spacecraft look like that could accomplish an unprecedented flight rate? Well, it would have a large first stage booster with wings and landing gear so it could land on a runway. It would weigh about as much as today's jumbo jets but may be a bit smaller.

The booster's main engines would operate on existing fuels, either kerosene or liquid hydrogen and it might even make its own oxygen in flight. Penn emphasized using fuels that can be handled easily on Earth between flights, and both kerosene and hydrogen have a long history of safe handling and remote loading.

The second stage would be either a similar winged booster with a small cargo bay, or a second stage holding a satellite. If the design is versatile enough, then two first stage boosters could be combined to launch a particularly large payload.

Getting that kind of design will start with combining new technologies rather than trying to come up with a single revolutionary invention, Penn said. Pulse detonation engines powering a Waverider-type craft made from carbon nanotubes would be a possible combination.

Designers also must focus on modular concepts that give operators flexibility. But mostly, they need to come up with space-worthy craft that operate like airplanes, with one kind designed for space operations and another destined to fly in and out of the atmosphere without going into orbit for carrying passengers and cargo between destinations on earth.

"It's going to be very challenging to build one vehicle to do both roles," Penn said.

In both cases, Penn said it is not necessarily an advantage to design a spacecraft that takes off from a runway like an airplane because additional weight would mean the craft would weigh up to three times more than a 747 or A380.

There is also the prospect of space tourism, he believes, with most of the demand being for going into orbit instead of just going into space briefly.

"We think there's a sweet spot where you can have 1,000 flights a year and get the ticket prices down to the point where people will want to pay," Penn said.

His advice for the future development of KSC? Be flexible and ready to adapt to these potential future markets that could dramatically increase flight rates and spur the development of vehicle systems that require much faster turnaround, and efficient ground servicing.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA. "Reuse, reliability will launch future, expert says." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110907131112.htm>.
NASA. (2011, September 7). Reuse, reliability will launch future, expert says. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110907131112.htm
NASA. "Reuse, reliability will launch future, expert says." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110907131112.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said that NORAD is ready to track Santa Claus as he delivers gifts next week. Speaking tongue-in-cheek, he said if Santa drops anything off his sleigh, "we've got destroyers out there to pick them up." (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) More than a year after NASA declared the Kepler spacecraft broken beyond repair, scientists have figured out how to continue getting useful data. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 16, 2014) NASA's Mars Curiosity rover finds methane in the Martian atmosphere and organic chemicals in the planet's soil, the latest hint that Mars was once suitable for microbial life. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins