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back to article Ares I-X trundles to launchpad

NASA's Ares I-X test rocket is currently trundling towards Launch Pad 39B at Kennedy Space Centre ahead of a slated 27 October first test flight. The Ares I-X trundles towards the launchpad. Pic: NASA The vehicle, described by NASA as the "essential core of a safe, reliable, cost-effective space transportation system" and …

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Is this the one

that some folks at NASA think will shake its payload to pieces, or is that Ares V?

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So Under the Hype

We have a pointy sticky up thing trundling along at 23 brontosaurus/hour which is made up of left over shuttle boosters (because Challenger and Columbia had a spares stock) with a bit of old Saturn V glued to the top (apollos 18 to 20 being cancelled gives them some bits to play with) trying to get into space.

And what's this about de-orbiting ISS and only going for the moon? Seems that the recession is deeper than we though!

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Coat

J2x derived my fat 'ol bottom

Combustion chamber from RS68 (Delta IV)

Gas generator scaled from RS68 (Delta IV)

Nozzle from RS68 (Delta IV)

Injectors from RS68 (Delta IV), but originally derived from J2.

Nozzle extension from RL10.

But wait

turbopump and turbine design *is* from J2.

But note.

The RS68 engine is not "man rated." The J2X is.

The real J2X derivative would have been the J2S (for simplified) which got rid of the gas generator entirely.

Mine will be the won with the AIAA reports in the pocket.

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How many sensors?

But in NASA units, shouldn't that be 5 gross of sensors?

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50-year old technology

So, basically, the future of space flight is based on technology developed in the late sixties to early seventies? One wonders that so little has happened since then. The space shuttle is radical compared to this, and the only part from that project that NASA seems keen on reusing is the rather conservative (even at the time) solid-fuel booster.

Sure, part of the explanation is a shoe-string budget that leaves little room for experimentation, so you have to rely on tried-and-tested technology. But surely that have been some technology developed in the past 50 years worth using?

Maybe the future of space flight is with private companies, who seem to be more willing to go new ways than NASA does.

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@John Smith 19

I bow to your knowledge of flamey, go up into spacey things.

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Rocket Scientists

"the whole point of Ares 1-X is to understand how does a rocket this shape, this weight, this tall actually fly"

Call me sceptical, but shouldn't a bunch of Rocket Scientists, working for NASA, have some idea how the rocket THEY designed and built is going to fly?

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Go

hodgepodge.

Needs more Reliant Robin.

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Old stuff

The time NASA to step up and create really cool rather than working with 50 year old technology is now. The current NASA people don't get it. The last time we had real innovation in the world was when NASA was developing the space program in the 60's. We got velcro, fuel cells, the transistor, major steps in miniaturization, computer design, and radar resolution and the shuttle from that. The new program doesn't do anything creative.

Shame on NASA

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Boffin

@Tim 30

"And what's this about de-orbiting ISS and only going for the moon? Seems that the recession is deeper than we though!"

They've always planned to de-orbit the ISS. It's not NASA's sole decision - the clue is in the "I" of ISS.

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IT Angle

Been there, Done that? NOT!

They keep on saying to skip the moon. But how else are we going to learn how to live on another planet? We need to go to the moon and not just visit, but **live there** for an extended length of time to develop a comprehensive understanding of what it takes to live in an extraterrestrial environment.

And the reality is that spending billions on Mars is unlikely to get enough funding to do it properly, resulting in a failed mission or no mission at all. Shoot for the moon, and spend a lot less.

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Paris Hilton

And now the world has...

an Arse rocket!

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@ rpjs

'that some folks at NASA think will shake its payload to pieces, or is that Ares V?'

It's this one that could pogo like buggery.

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FAIL

Eh?

So they're going to "de-orbit" the ISS about twenty minutes after they finish building it?

What a waste.

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FAIL

Re: Old stuff

Sorry, we don't have the bucks for "really cool" so we have to make do with 50yo tech. Around here we call it "the shaft" because that's what the taxpayer's getting.

"No bucks, no Buck Rogers" has been a saying since the '50s and it's still true.

Besides, I don't see any of you Brits launching astronauts anyways. People can always quarterback from the sidelines.

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British moon-shot

@Gene Cash - I'll have you know that British astronauts landed on the moon in 1901. Some deluded fools believe the film is a studio fake, but this does a grave dis-service to the memory of Dr. Cavor and Mr. Bedford.

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@Bassey

Yes, they know how it should fly. Unless they made a mistake somewhere. The rocket is a complicated system that only gets one try to work - once they light the solid rocket motor the only options are a successful launch into roughly the right trajectory or to blow it up.

Just think how many bugs most computer software has, you'll get an idea of how many things can go wrong.

So they want to launch it to check they got everything right.

Icon: Flames from the rocket engine.

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Joke

Space rocket?

Nah, it's just a thinly-disguised missile test.

As for the "old technology" whingers, you do know they're using bolts and screws to build the thing, right? __CENTURIES-old__ technology! Sure they may be making them out of newer materials, putting them in different places, etc, etc... EVERY technology is based on older technology. We do that so we have more time to develop the new bits rather than wasting time re-inventing stuff that already works.

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@AC 15:51

"Unless they made a mistake somewhere."

Also, these things are just too complex to model with perfect accuracy.

A1X is an aerodynamics test article.

They did the same thing with the Space Shuttle; they build the Enterprise to test the orbiter's aerodynamic properties and how the landing works.

It was not space-worthy. It had no engines, reaction control system or heat shield. However it was air-worthy and could be 'launched' off the back of the shuttle carrier plane.

Ditto the Buran space shuttle; they built one with jet engines that could fly around, that was not space worthy, as an aerodynamics test article.

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Old Stuff 2

It's a rocket. What new technology can NASA put in it?

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@Anonymous Coward

"once they light the solid rocket motor the only options are a successful launch"

And right there is one of the two major problems with solids. The other one is when it goes boom, it goes BOOM in a major way with absolutely no warning whatsoever. There's no time to use any sort of escape system. The first thing Mission Control knows is flaming chunks falling on their roof.

With liquids, not only can you shut it down (and usually throttle it as necessary) but a liquid gives lots of heads-up when it's "feelin' poorly" and you've the warning and time to "be elsewhere quickly"

I think we're going to lose more astronauts as a result of poor design decisions based on what's cheapest.

Oh well, there's always the Russians. They make the safest stuff around nowadays.

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Why Mars?

I don't get the fixation with trapping ourselves in another planet's gravity well.

Local orbit, the Moon and asteroids should be targets for human space exploration, as springboards toward practical resource development. It'd be cheaper in the short to medium term and more likely to offer the potential for commercial gain.

Philosophically, it's space itself that we're going to spend the bulk of our far off future in - we'd be wise to start learning to live in it. I mean, it's not like we're likely to be able to terraform Mars in the near future, so what advantage does sending humans there offer us?

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Why the Moon?

The Moon is covered in fine abrasive dust.. We're better off with space stations. Actually the money would be better spent on unmanned but increasingly autonomous probes, at least until some good reason for sending people emerges.

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FAIL

Hello Mr Chinaman, we are handing space to you.

Truth is that NO Western government can do space stuf anymore. They can't do long term (over 3 month) planning anymore because either the media start moaning nothing is happening for the money, or the fianancial world goes into meltdown and pisses it all away.

Also, we are so risk averse that they panic when someone gets hurt. Look at Apollo 1 - 3 deaths and yet they were launching again the next year. One lost Shuttle and they ground the fleet for 3. There are brave people out there who accept the risks are higher than driving (1200 deaths a year) and it's they who get things done. Good grief, there are even people happy to sign up for one-way trips to Mars yet we can't let them do this despite it saving half the budget for the jaunt, because we are scared of the lawyers.

The only people who can do this now are the Chinese. We might as well nail the doors up on Nasa's big shed.

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FAIL

They won't get more than 23,769 cubits away

NASA won't get anywhere while they still measure in units based on some emperor's smelly feet.

NASA - I'm not sure how to get EPIC FAIL in that acronym. Go China!

@Phil - I think driving is vastly more dangerous than spaceflight.

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Go

Rockets are hopeless.

It's about time to do space properly. Use some vision.

A couple of decades ago, BAe had an outline design called HOTOL for a hypersonic air-breathing spaceplane (it looked somewhere between a space shuttle and Concorde, and was around the same size as a 747. If space is worth doing at all, it's worth doing properly.

For those who've never done the maths, rockets are hopeless, because most of the fuel goes into accellerating the rest of the fuel and a bloody great structure to hold it. Most of a rocket is burned up long before it even breaks the sound barrier. A spaceplane only has to carry a fraction of the mass of fuel, the rest is air which it collects as it goes, up to the point where it' s going as fast as possible within the atmosphere. This greatly increases the payload it can carry, and means that the entire vehicle would be re-usable.

Work with the physics, not against it. Engineering elegance, not brute force.

Next step after this should be a space elevator a.k.a. a beanstalk, but we don't yet know how to make strong enough rope. But do research it. Even if a beanstalk turns out to be impossible, discovering how to make really strong but light rope would be useful for earthbound purposes.

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Welcome

@Nigel 11

Hell yeah! I just can't believe we're still depending on *rockets* to lift stuff up; especially big-ass rockets that aren't fully reusable! I wonder why are we re-inventing the Apollo when we should take the Space Shuttle example and do a fully-reusable spaceplane. We could even follow the SpaceShipTwo example and do a hybrid launch mechanism; flying the craft high enough to make the "launch" easier. Added benefit would be having an actual spacecraft, and not some tin-can that barely has space to stretch your legs!

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@Nigel 11

"A couple of decades ago, BAe had an outline design called HOTOL for a hypersonic air-breathing spaceplane (it looked somewhere between a space shuttle and Concorde, and was around the same size as a 747."

Reaction Engines (Alan Bond's company, which licensed the patents) are still in business and refined the design and improved the risk reduction quite a lot since then.

It still comes with about a £12bn development budget. While that might be honest for the size of vehicle proposed (c1/2 million Ib takoff load is an Airbus 380) it is a *radically* bigger risk.

With a new airliner its market risk. The passenger market just *might* not be there to sell them to airliners at the price the maker wants to give them the price per seat per passenger kilometer.

If r() is the risk of something not working out with Skylon its r(engine cycle) x r(engine design) x r(structural materials) x r(launch mode) x r(airframe design) x r(market exists). Most of the above are *entirely* new to Skylon. There is *no* existing user base for most of these technologies.

The market looks a lot firmer with Virgin Galactic but that handicaps RE as they then get the "But it's not like the Virgin Galactic design" whine from potential investors.

You might put this in perspective with the Kistler K1 debacle. Their VC funders (who IIRC included Barclays US VC arm) said hire some experienced (IE old) ex-NASA types . They did. They proceeded to run through c$1bn of funding producing a costly to make (we'lll use composites, they'll be so light, ignoring that Atlas and Ariane V have flow with common bulkhead tanks for years if not decades) and still produced *no* flight ready vehicle.

So far SpaceEx is the *only* company that has got off the ground with a wholly private funded vehicle. No exotic materials. No Hydrogen (for operational use that is relevant). No exotic launch modes. No recoverablility. Mjor compoenets made in house. Limited market uncertainty. When they launch a recoverable payload (the Dragon capsule) it will a lifting reentry capsule with ablative shielding. This has cost $250m so far

I admire RE's commitment and can understand the thinking that got them to their design. The airframe design does have benefits (big cross range), and on a commercial basis is probably the size needed to go after the only big commercial market in sight. I am very skeptical those benefits could justify the *huge* backing needed to fund it. Put simply LOX is 700x more dense than air and in bulk is less than 10cents a lb in the US.

Mine's the one with the printout of the RE website in it.

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