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back to article Europe, Russia discuss 'orbital shipyard' plans

Space bigwigs in Russia and Europe are working on ambitious plans for an international space shipyard in orbit above the Earth, according to reports. The orbital shipyard would be used to assemble manned spacecraft capable of travelling to the Moon or Mars. NASA concept of a nuclear-powered Mars ship with centrifuge crew …

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Even so, it's not immediately clear...

... exactly how a permanent Earth-orbit facility would help in the process of plugging together largely prefabricated modules or components.

Wouldn't there be a structural advantage to bve gained from craft that never saw gravity and hence the rigours of takeoff and landing? If all it has to do is accelerate and decelerate gently from A to B then tolerances could be lower for joints and load-bearing fixings ?

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Orbital shipyards would be good

If you build space going vehicles in orbit, you dont really need to worry about making them aerodynamic or worry about things concerning stresses etc. You could probably build vehicles that look rather flimsy - but thats ok as they will only ever be used in orbit.

I think this reduces the cost to fabricate them, not sure.

Of course, we would still need things like rockets and shuttles to get up there in the first place, as well as provide any vehicle built in orbit with fuel/supplies etc.

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Silver badge
Alien

Of course...

...we need orbital shipyards to so that cylons/romulans can do surprise attacks on them.

Go for it!

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Only one name..

..for such a facility. The Skywalker shipyards.

Only problem is that ILM got there first - do you think that they would be happy to share, or will they want loads of dosh (or free trips up for all their staff)

Go on, say it, you know you want to. (Nerd alert)

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Why...

Are they decomishioning the station before or as soon as it is completed?

Hell Mir was up for 12 years when it was meant to be up for 2

Odd

What will they do with it once they finish? to big to burn up in the atmosphere.

-Jayson

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Flame

Pretty simple really, to an engineer

"Even so, it's not immediately clear exactly how a permanent Earth-orbit facility would help in the process of plugging together largely prefabricated modules or components."

Depends entirely on the design. If one component has power and propulsion, it can in theory chase down the other parts, but soft docking each part in a long chain requires docking mechanisms and cameras on each to line them up. At some point it makes sense to have your assembly tools done once rather than on each part, and to leave them behind once you are done with them.

The space station itself required many EVA's to connect and deploy "largely prefabricated modules or components", and those guys needed to be somewhere in between EVA's.

The way they are packed for launch, and the way they are unpacked once they are used are different. Solar arrays and radiators are the most obvious of these.

Lastly, leaving earth orbit requires passing through the radiation belt. Electric propulsion is fuel efficient, but slow, you do not want your humans to ride along while the main spacecraft is doing it's slow climb. Your choices are a tug or booster that gets you quickly out of the radiation zone, and then heads back by aerobraking for the next trip, or the astronauts wait on the ground or in orbit until the main ship is high enough, then ride a capsule quickly out to join it.

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what !

it takes them 3 days to fit a new camera and they got their sites aimed at building ships in space !!!

talking about aiming high (no pun intented)

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Silver badge

Don't be daft

"Even so, it's not immediately clear exactly how a permanent Earth-orbit facility would help in the process of plugging together largely prefabricated modules or components."

C'mon, this is spacefaring 101. If you build ships in space you can make them BIGGER. If you're going to go on a manned mission to Mars, you're going to need a much bigger spacecraft. Try building that on the ground. Unlike the new POS Star Trek film implies, it's not easy.

Build it in parts at various locations, ship them into space. If you lose one on the way, you don't lose the whole ship. Then you build the sucker in zero gravity, where you could stick a rocket on a brick and call it a spaceship, and you're off. Duh.

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Go

@ Destroy All Monsters

of course you never know when a romulan mining vessel might drop out of black hole for a visit

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Coat

Recycle?

Plenty of spare bits in orbit for re-use.

I have a vison of a space-faring Tranist pick-up roaming near-earth stuffed with solar panels and rare metals.

Mine's the one with too many SF books in the pocket.

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@Destroy All Monsters

I'd be more worried about someone inducing a solar flare to destroy them, just to open the gates to Sto'v'kor.

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Anonymous Coward

ISS Closed - not back in 5 minutes

I'd only just become used to the idea of an international space station - I didn't want it to close down while I was alive!

(aggh - touch wood)

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E

@guy eastwood

It must be strong to withstand the impact of the photon torpedoes.

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Linux

Sounds like the 90 day plan all over again.

Bush Sr ask NASA how much it would take to go to Mars & NASA came back with the 90 day plan. It required construction of orbital shipyards, trips to Luna for materials, a giant ship going inside Venus' orbit for 10 days on Mars, etc, etc. It would cost 1/2 a trillion dollars which sank it right there.

Robert Zubrin came along with a simpler "Mars Direct" plan. A single launch puts the return ship on Mars to make fuel out of the air. 2 years later, a single launch sends people to Mars for a year and a half of exploration. Cost was $15 billion, or $45 billion if NASA did it.

Those who don't want to go to Mars just make it sound expensive.

Warm regards, Rick.

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Elite?

Will we all be able to play Elite for real when it's done?

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Look to Star Trek for inspiration

I seem to remember one episode at least where the Enterprise docks in something similar shown floating above the Earth for a refit.

If it's appeared in Star Trak, its got to be possible hasn't it?

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Boffin

The ISS has been a total fiasco

They should pull the plug on it now. Whether a "replacement" is made should wait until someone comes up with a justification that makes scientific sense.

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Boffin

@Dani Eder

"Your choices are a tug or booster that gets you quickly out of the radiation zone, and then heads back by aerobraking for the next trip, or the astronauts wait on the ground or in orbit until the main ship is high enough, then ride a capsule quickly out to join it."

<Pedant>

I don't think you be able to do a pure aerobrake to get back. If you are above the Van Allen Belts you will be in such a hard vacuum that any reasonably sized aerobrake will have next to no effect on your orbit. Fortunately, since you no longer have a human crew to worry about, you can use one of those efficient-but-slow-accelerating electric drives to return to LEO. Alternatively, you could use a burn from your high-thrust drive to lower your perigee to where you _can_ make use of aerobraking for the rest of your maneuvering.

That said, I agree with the rest of your points about the usefulness of having a pace to do on orbit assembly (Von Braun was right, IMO) and about it being a good idea for any spacecraft with humans on it to spend as little time as is practical within the Van Allen Belts, for which purpose it is handy to have a reusable tug.

</Pedant>

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Anonymous Coward

powerpoint engineering

It's amazing how many here get taken in by obvious vaporware, when you all should know better.

The Russians have mooted about a TON of proposals recently in the hopes someone will financially rescue them. None of them are going to happen. I believe this about as much as I believe the emails from the Nigerian minister of finance about the millions he has to send me.

We can't even go to the Moon now, much less Mars.

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Jobs Halo

The ISS

What is the alleged purpose of the Space Station at the moment?

It has had various proposed valuable uses, but these keep changing.

Also what has it cost to date , and how much more to complete it.

The only thing that seems certain is that it will be Russian Craft that transport

the parts up there because the US space shuttle is just about obsolete .

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Gravity

They will need to develop gravity plating to put in this orbital shipyard so people aren't floating about in offices, living quarters, bathroom, etc...

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Anonymous Coward

Well

The obvious advantage of building them in space is that we don't give them a chance to explode in the atmosphere.

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re: The ISS

"What is the alleged purpose of the Space Station at the moment?"

I suggest you read a book called "Stark" by Ben Elton, everything is explained.

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