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back to article One second-hand space shuttle: Yours for $29m

NASA has knocked down the price of a used space shuttle to an affordable $28.8m - a considerable saving on the $42m it originally wanted for Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavour. The agency is accepting enquiries from "any US educational institution, federal agency, state or municipality" interested in getting its hands on a second …

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Anonymous Coward

Sod that

How much for something truly innovative like a Concorde or Harrier?

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Would make a

nice garden ornament...

Wonder how long before they end up on ebay lol

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Black Helicopters

Wonder if the bank will give me a mortage for that?

Would be just the thing for advancing my plans for world domination. Muhahahahahah!

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Go

About those engines...

Will they fit in a '94 Toyota Camry?

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Grenade

Hummm

I feel a Darwin award just waiting to happen!

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NRT
Coat

True

Anyone who drives a Toyota Camry........

Nick,

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Wooosh!

Richard Branson was not allowed to buy Concorde - I suppose there was the danger he would make money out of it.

Not the same with the shuttle.

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Anonymous Coward

Maybe....

a low cost airline could buy one and beat Branson to offer space services....

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Coffee/keyboard

RyanSpace

Please, no. Do not let Michael O'Leary buy space shuttles.

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@AC 15:52

Innovation: "something new or different introduced"

Let's evaluate this based on the test of "seeing it in action for the first time".

Concorde? Please...it's derivative at best. Breed a supersonic fighter with a passenger jet. It was neither the first supersonic aircraft, nor was it the first passenger jet, it just combined the two. Upon seeing the Concorde for the first time, you'd be thinking something like "I know it goes really fast, but it looks like any other airplane. An oddly shaped one, but not that different.

Harrier? All together, not that impressive. The directed thrust idea was certainly a new thing, so I'll give that particular technology the term innovative, but the whole rest of the aircraft...not so much... Upon seeing a harrier take off vertically for the first time, you'd think "hey, that's a neat improvement on other fighters".

Now as for the space shuttle, I don't recall anything even close to a spacefaring reusable glider ever existing BEFORE the shuttle, so it's a simple matter of *fact* that it was innovative. It might not be all that new and exciting NOW, but it's also been flying for 29 years. Upon seeing the first shuttle launch, you'd be thinking "holy s***, this is a completely different way of going into space".

There really is no comparison. Don't get pissy just because Brits didn't invent it. It's not our fault the UK hasn't done anything useful in space exploration...well...ever...

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Anonymous Coward

UK space exploration.

"the UK hasn't done anything useful in space exploration"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Arrow

The problem is this, as the article says: - As of 2009, the United Kingdom is the only country to have successfully developed and then abandoned a satellite launch capability.

Doing something useful - Check

Retaining something useful - Fail.

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@Innovation:

Good point about Concorde/Harrier, a better comparison in terms of innovation in design and materials would have been the SR71.

The only really cleaver part of the shuttle is the main engine - which is still an amazing performance even today.

But a simple calculation at the time must have shown they would never get off the ground without the solid boosters. So simply lose the engines and the huge fuel tank and add a couple more boosters and you could build the whole flying brick in a fraction fo the time.

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Paris Hilton

Nope

Not 'a completely different way of going into space' but a completely different way of coming back from space, if anything the use of solid fuel boosters could be seen as a retrograde step. However, the use of an unpowered liftng body to get from the upper atmosphere to the ground is truly innovative.

Paris cos she knows all about re-entry.

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Boffin

Really:

"Let's evaluate this based on the test of "seeing it in action for the first time"

OK - not a perfect metric, but I'll run with it...

Concorde:

"it looks like any other airplane. An oddly shaped one, but not that different."

No, it really doesn't - Massive delta wings, no tailplane, dipping nose, afterburners. I used to live under Heathrow flight path, Concorde never ceased to fascinate and impress.

Nothing that size had gone anywhere near mach2 before - remember that this was also 40 years ago!

Harrier:

If you think that a gliding return capsule is innovative then VTOL is certainly innovative - the idea was French, but the invention was British.

On seeing a plane hovering you think "WTF is going on - how does it do that!" When you think about it you get even more confused and impressed.

Shuttle:

Reusable - don't make me laugh, the three largest sections are jettisoned early in flight and are recovered; That's no better than adding a parachute to the Saturn stages, certainly derivative.

The actual shuttle is a reusable capsule - it lands on wheels rather than splashdown (Apollo style) or bumping to land (Soyuz style), but the innovation is that the heat shield can withstand multiple entries and be repaired.

Otherwise to draw an analogy with your dismissal of Concorde: It's just a space capsule crossed with a glider.

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Well....

There have been only 2 (afaik) super sonic passenger jets, French/British Concorde and the Russian one, the American's couldn't work out how to make one so gave up. Is it derivative? An airplane which needs to expand and contract, Concorde is a technological marvel.

Though based on your own assumptions. Glider with rockets added so it can lift off and glide down, I'm pretty sure many planes can glide without power so it's not exactly rocket science (that's a pun) to figure out the shuttle. It's not a "different way of going in to space" it's the same method the yanks stole from the Germans after world war two, a giant frikken rocket, all travel into space is the same theory, strap a huge rocket onto something and fire both up into space. Coming down is the easy part, you get gravity for that.

Upon seeing Concorde you marvel at the engineering required to make it fly at super sonic speeds, you marvel at its beauty, Concorde from an engineering point of view is far superior to the shuttle in so many ways.

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@theSensibleGeek

Do you have a toy shuttle by any chance? Your bias would indicate that you do.

A "spacefaring reusable glider". It can barely make it to the edge of our atmosphere, and then only with a hell of a lot of help from solid-fuel rocket boosters. It only glides on the return trip and does not do that very well at all. It is reusable but the cost and time of servicing between missions is astronomical. And, in 29 years two have (unfortunately) been destroyed along with the crew so rather a poor track record.

Innovation my arse.

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Anonymous Coward

The UK hasn't done anything useful in space exploration

It's absolutely true. Most of the innovations in space exploration have come from the Russians.

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Flame

Splitting hairs

"Breed a supersonic fighter with a passenger jet. It was neither the first supersonic aircraft, nor was it the first passenger jet, it just combined the two."

So we didn't have gliders or big fuck off rockets before the Shuttle then? Or did they simply combine the two...

Sorry mate, couldn't resist :)

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Stop

Really?

As the title says, really? Why would you evaluate whether something is innovative based on the 'wow' factor the first time you saw it.

Specifically innovation is taking something, either an idea or an existing technology and INNOVATING to improve or develop this.

Effectively your argument is saying that the billion dollar B2 Spirit bomber is not innovative with it's radar absorbing paint, flying wing design and huge range, in fact its just the same as the plane the wright brothers used.

Or not.

Yes, the basic principles of concorde are the same as a passenger jet, it moves people through the air from A to B. However a passenger jet is slow, for people who want to get there faster (and were happy to pay for it) Britain and France innovated upon existing technology, such as passenger jets, delta wing planes, fighter jets etc, and created Concorde. A one off, the Russians created a similar plane, but it was a failure with none of the amazing technical innovations of concorde, the Americans just gave up on the starting blocks and super sized their planes by creating a 747.

Yes a 747 isn't an innovation, it's literally using a photocopier and just upping the scale a bit, however concorde is a completely different thing as it completely changed the way planes were viewed, even if it was eventually commercially withdrawn.

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Grenade

Innovation

Actually the definition of Innovation is "a new way of doing something". Like crossing the atlantic in 4 hours clinching a deal in a 1 hour meeting then coming back in the same day. Or deploying from a more compact aircraft carrier without the need for a bloody great big run up or a big rubber band/net to land. The ancient greeks first invented steam engines but it was James Watts idea to deploy them to power the industrial revolution and Stephenson's idea to put it them on wheels and iron tracks. Together with a massive take up for economic reasons made them innovative.

BTW the definition of economic is "pays for itself".

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Re: There really is no comparison

The Soviets tried to copy both the shuttle and Concorde. They didn't lack the brains or (at the time) the cash, but they failed on both. It's only one data point, but it suggests that both craft were pretty impressive pieces of work.

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Anonymous Coward

What?

"it looks like any other airplane. An oddly shaped one"

YSurely you're being oxymoronic. How can it look like any other AEROPLANE and be oddly shaped at the same time?

As for Concorde being innovative lets see. NASA engineers are on record as saying that getting Concorde to work was harder than putting a man on the moon. Bear in mind that at the time supersonic military aircraft required that the crew wear special suits, passengers and crew on Concorde could wear everyday clothes. Supersonic military jets could only stay in the air for a very short time and then on landing would require loads of maintenance before the next flight, Concorde OTOH could stay in the air for hours, land, refuel and then turn round and do it all again.

Based on a fighter? Which one would that be then? Get a grasp or aeronautic history before you open your mouth on the subject next time.

SR71 you say? Well sort of. If they didn't have to spend days working on them between flights and if the engines didn't suffer from those nasty "unstarts" then maybe it would have been something. However I don't think it really counted as anything more than a prototype without those glitches sorting out. Likewise the shuttle, wasn't it supposed to be offering a fortnightly service? They never really got it past the beta stage did it?

Yet another septic suffering from NIH syndrome.

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Coat

Derivative?

Space Shuttle? Please...it's derivative at best. Breed a supersonic aircraft with a heavy lifting space rocket. It was neither the first supersonic aircraft, nor was it the first rocket, it just combined the two.

What is your in-depth analysis of other cutting edge technologies?

Flying car - derivative! Breed a car with a plane

Robot butler - derivative! Breed a robot with a butler

Sharks with frikkin' lasers - derivative! Breed a shark with a laser

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Coat

Heh he he

Should "There have been only 2 (afaik) super sonic passenger jets, French/British Concorde and the Russian one" really read

"There have been only 2 (afaik) super sonic passenger jets, French/British Concorde and the French/British/Russian one"

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Headmaster

The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

@AC: "Most of the innovations in space exploration have come from the Russians"

I think you meant to type "the Germans"

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Coat

@theSensibleGeek

"Innovation: "something new or different introduced"

Let's evaluate this based on the test of "seeing it in action for the first time"."

As a child I would have agreed with you. As an adult I know rather more.

Concorde. In reality the *first* (and so far only) aircraft to allow Mach 2 for the *rest* of us.

It's *major* competitor in innovation and speed is the SR71 (or the XB70 but that never saw service). In fact like the Blackbird it also expands due to aerodynamic heating.

What's innovative is it uses a *very* clever wing design to *eliminate* both the need for variable geometry (which has only *ever* flown in 2 and 3 seat miltary aircraft) or cannards to handle the low speed landing problems. Only the Lockheed SST design (which used chines, whose effectiveness they probably only knew about from the SR71 programme) would have matched it in terms of reliability. The bugbear of *all* active aerodynamic systems (BLC, variable geometry) has *always* been that *if* it locks up (or off) at the wrong moment your passengers are toast.

It was AFAIK the first "Supercruise" aircraft which did not need an afterburner to sustain greater than M1 speed. It is the only civilian aircraft with afterburner and uses it to power thrugh M1 but does not need it to cruise at M2.2. The upgraded version would have eliminated reheat altogether. The SR71 is designed to fly permanently on burner. Anything else of that vintage needs burner to get above and stay above M1.

It confronts the heat problem with an aluminium skin with fairly well understood metalurgical properties (The alloy was developed to make pistons for Rolls Royce aeroengines) rather than setting up a whole foundry to make the Titanium parts of the SR71. Oh and *unlike* either of the US supersonic transport designs it got *built* and accumlated operational experience, *despite* 2 false starts when the French insisted on trying to build short range versions with less than 1000nmi between airports.

For the Harrier you would need to know that their was a NATO requirement for a VSTOL aircraft as NATO had realised that those 5000ft long lumps of concrete could be quite easily spotted and precision surveyed *decades* in advance of any attack either nuclear or cluster bombs.

Most concepts used seperate "lift jets," often *dozens* of them. These are *dead* weight at all times other than take off and landing. RR built one with a T/W of 16 (good normal jets of the time could do 5:1) as long as it did not run for more than 15mins.

The real time control of thrust balence among all these engines with 1960s tech (the UK SHort Brothers had 4 thrust engines in the mid body and needed 4 ch fly by wire as *very* small imbalences build up *very* quickly and the vehicle goes uncontrollable (the Apollo "flying bedstead" simulator Buzz Aldrin nearly died on was a similar problem) The Pegasus concepts designed *all* of that out with 1 engine on the centreline with dual contra-rotating shafts to cancel the gyroscopic forces and gas tap off to the vehicle ends and wing tips for low speed control, making flying possible *without* a control computer.

It got built (unlike a *lot* of the others), it got deployed and saw action. It should have done a hell of a better in foreign sales however.

Both really quite sensible and well deserving of some museum space.

The orbiters deserve places in aerospace museums anywhere in the world. They were also the *start* of the art in their field and over time I have learned to appreciate their advanced features too. But if you read "Frontiers of Space," this 4 piece system that throws 3 chunks away before getting *anywhere* is clumsy and ungainly.

I hope it will not be quite so long before their is a follow up to them (not necessarily the shape or the architecture but the idea).

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Paris Hilton

To the geek - your logic needs work

So Concorde's not innovative, as it was the first supersonic passenger jet but was neither the first supersonic plane nor the first passenger jet, but merely a combination of the two?

However, the Shuttle is innovative, as it was the first reusable space glider, despite being neither the first spaceship nor the first glider?

And Concorde looks like any other airliner? What are you smoking?

Paris, 'cos for $28m, she'd be your plaything too.

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Happy

nothing useful

The Brits have done nothing useful in space exploration mainly because of lack of money, not lack of technical expertise or imagination. Much of the early space technology in the US was taken from the Germans at the end of the war. Wernher Von Braun headed up the Appollo team which designed the Saturn 5 rocket engines. The Americans might have been mainly responsible for the Shuttle, but I would'nt pat myself on the back over that one. The Shuttle was hopelessly uneconomic to operate, inherently unreliable and dangerous, and not a shining example of technical innovation. As to jet aircraft, I would also like to mention that the jet engine was invented almost simultaneously in England and Germany, and that the first American jet aircraft used jet engines designed in England. America's main contribution to technology comes from the large amounts of money it has to fund development - and I don't want to even begin to talk about the ethics of where the money comes from.

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FAIL

Lets put this is perspective here

Ok lets all be honest here. The Concorde, The Shuttle and the SR-71 all pretty damn impressive feats of engineering here. And each, in its own right innovating in their own right. Now if you want a really innovative and impressive look at the Shuttles crawler:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crawler-transporter

The biggest self propelled vehicle in the world. And still in service. Though granted the 2 probably only have around 1000 miles on the odometer but hell one hell of a steal for only $14 (US) million at the time. I want that for off-roading :)

OP: You do fail on your comparasion you failed to look at the features of all combined.

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FAIL

Fixed your post

"As of 2009, the United States is the only country to have successfully developed and then abandoned a manned Lunar mission capability."

It's unfortunate, but the way the American people are, now that they have developed all this capability, instead of taking advantage of it, they'll probably just piss it all away.

-- President Lyndon Johnson, on the Apollo program

Both our countries suck.

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space shuttle boosters

As I recall, that's the approach the Russians took with their "Buran" vehicle -- basically, almost a complete knock-off of the US STS craft, right down to the massive schedule slippage and cost overruns. The differences were that Buran's strap-on engines were liquid-fueled, fed by the main tank that the Buran rode to orbit on, and the orbiter had no engines of its own. Other than that, pretty much a straight-off aerodynamic copy.

Now, you want to talk about a country developing something useful, and then immediately abandoning it:

http://www.astronautix.com/craft/buran.htm

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before the Shuttle...?

Well, there was Dyna-Soar -- or X-20 -- a planned successor to X-15 designed for the USAF which, since before the beginning, has always been horny for its own space program. Designed to carry a single pilot -- and, in versions planned for later, a small payload -- it was sort of in that league of "space fighter", designed to ride to orbit atop a Titan III, along the booster thrust axis instead of slung alongside, like the Shuttle:

http://www.astronautix.com/craft/dynasoar.htm

This isn't including the buttloads of earlier winged boost-glide craft studied and proposed before DynaSoar, including Korolev's pre-WWII rocketplane:

http://www.astronautix.com/craft/korplane.htm

...and Eugen Sänger's trans-atmospheric long-range boost-skip/glide bomber:

http://www.luft46.com/misc/sanger.html

...not to mention the additional buttload of proposed designs for the Shuttle itself:

http://www.astronautix.com/nails/b/bsts70b.jpg

http://www.astronautix.com/nails/s/sts70rx.jpg

http://www.astronautix.com/nails/s/shutbnar.jpg

http://www.astronautix.com/nails/s/shutbgru.jpg

...and further buttloads since the Shuttle was developed, both for large cargo-carrying and fighter-sized spaceplanes:

http://www.astronautix.com/craft/makbiter.htm

http://www.astronautix.com/craft/okm.htm

Just a few I found by rummaging around at astronautix.com and luft46.com for a few minutes.

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Headmaster

re: Apollo LLRV ("flying bedstead") crash

Actually, that was Armstrong who narrowly escaped death by ejecting from an out-of-control LLRV:

http://www.astronautix.com/craft/apoollrv.htm

(quote)

1968 May 6 - Apollo lunar landing research vehicle No 1 crashed at Ellington Air Force Base - Program: Apollo.

Lunar landing research vehicle (LLRV) No. 1 crashed at Ellington Air Force Base, Tex. The pilot, astronaut Neil A. Armstrong, ejected after losing control of the vehicle, landing by parachute with minor injury. Estimated altitude of the LLRV at the time of ejection was 60 meters. LLRV No. 1, which had been on a standard training mission, was a total loss - estimated at $1.5 million. LLRV No. 2 would not begin flight status until the accident investigation had been completed and the cause determined. Additional Details: Apollo lunar landing research vehicle No 1 crashed at Ellington Air Force Base.

(/quote)

Otherwise, great post. Thanks!

(pedantic grammar nazi alert icon, because there's no pedantic spaceflight-history geek alert icon)

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Grenade

B2 Spirit?

Wright brothers no. Horten brothers however......

Ho229 which flew was a flying wing with stealth. Ho18 design had the range.

Helpfully for those who built the B2, they had a captured Ho229 in bits to work from.

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Headmaster

Buzz......

I think you'll find that was Neil Armstrong, not Buzz Aldrin.

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Stop

Not so much a fighter but...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairey_Delta_2

Research aircraft rather than a fighter, but credit where it's due.

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Anonymous Coward

Innovation

The most innovative thing about Concorde was making the cabin so civilized. Bear in mind that the plane itself got so hot at supersonic speeds that it grew by several inches, yet the cabin remained at a comfortable temperature. Of course it was done by air conditioning, and that took a lot of power, but the real trick was in having such a wide range of temperatures in the air frame (155 centigrade on the leading edges to 24 degrees in the cabin) without the whole thing distorting permanently on cooling.

Military craft avoided this issue by building the cooling into the crews' suits.

And of course there were many less significant tricks developed for Concorde that didn't feature in other aircraft for a long time, mainly because they were considered too expensive. For decades it was amusing to see features being offered on subsonic planes being described as "innovative" when they had first been used on Concorde years before.

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WTF?

What a ripoff!

You wouldn't sell a used car without the engine. So why a space shuttle? For $29M they should throw in the engines for free.

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Coat

And...

... a full fuel tank!

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Boffin

Branson...

I reckon he should buy one... he's got a jumbo jet to launch it from already....

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Unhappy

@ theSensibleGeek

Hate to say it, even though I love the space shuttle, and will be in tears to see it go, it wasn't in itself innovative, the USAF was flying a reusable space plane/craft before the shuttle came along.

The Shuttle is widely credited as having the first throttleable, reusable rocket engine, but the USAF had the X-15, with its XLR-99 engine which was the first.

Ok the X-15 need a B-52 to help it take off, and was only just a plane, but it got there before the Shuttle ever did. Oh, and you'd never see one take off as its military.

I will agree the Shuttle is one of a kind, and I'd love to own one, shame the price quoted doesn't include the engines :-(

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re: X15

Good point. However, the X15 was unable to reach orbital velocity and, iirc, it was only on a few later flights that it reached altitudes close to the early Mercury suborbital flights; actual flights to orbit would've been left to the X20 "DynaSoar" had it actually been built and flown.

Still, there were plans for an orbital mod to X15 -- the X15-B -- proposed for launch atop a booster derived from the old Navajo cruise missile (another proposal involved launching with four lashed-together Titan I booster stages). The X15 was to orbit once-around (like Vostok) and, after passing through re-entry, the pilot would eject and parachute to earth and the X15 abandoned to crash unoccupied:

http://www.astronautix.com/craft/x15b.htm

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mwk

I'm guessing that those shuttle engines

have some fairly hefty export limitations on them.

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Alert

How much for a chunk of foam?

Also, now on eBay - exclusive @RARE@ missing heat shield tiles.

And there's more: don't just buy the missing heat shield tiles, get *VINTAGE* hydrogen fuel, as used in the Space Shuttle, as well. A $29.95 value for just the cost of your bid. Good luck and hope you *WIN*.

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Joke

I see one litttttttle problem here

<sarcasm>

You will only find this offer by A++++++++++++++++++++ rated sellers. Who will in turn be more then happy to mail you your piece of foam from China or some place over there. Which will in turn take (minimum) 8 weeks to get here. Which by that time they will have taken your money and run and you will never get your piece of foam. And your only recourse is, well, nothing cause eBay (and therefore) PayScam have already gotten their share and no longer care about your rights as a consumer.

Or:

You get your piece of foam, stamped Made in China. Its only downside is that its covered in lead paint, presents a choking hazard to children and gives of noxious fumes which drive you would of your home.

</sarcasm>

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Thumb Up

Also, now on eBay...

Seriously, AC... while it'd be cool as hell to own the whole shebang -- sans tank and boosters, of course -- still, realistically thinking, I'd be perfectly happy to own an actual, flown-in-space heat shield tile... sealed in a block of Lucite, with a notarized certificate of authenticity signed by the NASA Administrator, and perhaps autographed by John Young -- if it's not too much trouble, of course. (;^>

I don't know about the jug of LH2, though -- we don't have anyplace at our house cold enough to keep it liquid -- but I'd pay real money for that baggie they found in the processing hangar, especially if there was any coke left clinging to the inside.

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@ theSensibleGeek.

I agree the shuttle was innovative and a fantastic project but I have to say the Harrier was also. The U.S spent ages trying to copy it with all manner of hilarious attempts before giving up and buying a load from Rolls Royce. They realised it was a fantastically innovative aircraft that would be very versatile, you should as well ;)

p.s the Concorde also rocked :) it still would be if BA hadn't blocked Richard Branson from buying them, they feared that they would show them how to make money :)

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Gold badge

Eh?

Er, the US did not buy any Harriers from Rolls-Royce for two very good reasons. Firstly it's a Hawker (now BAe) aircraft, Rolls make the engines (which the US do buy). Secondly they licensed the design and theirs are built in the States as the AV8 by McDonnell Douglas.

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Bronze badge

Mile-high club for those suffering vertigo?

Obvious use, natch. Tho' it'll be a helluvalot more than a mile 'high'.

http://gizmodo.com/5043984/jumbo-airplane-hotel-allows-mile-high-club-experience-on-the-ground

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Megaphone

@ theSensibleGeek

I recall seeing a picture in 'The Eagle Annual' in about 1962 of the Shuttle - only they called it the 'Dyna-Soar' (a cut-away drawing, not flown by 'Dan Dare'). I later discovered that the X-20 Dyna-Soar really did exist.

It was based on the Silbervogel - built by the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Segelflug by Eugen Sanger, and developed by Walter Bornberger (who had co-ordinated the German V1 & V2 programmes) - it was originally planned to take off from Germany, bomb the USA and land on Pacific islands under Japanese occupation.

I'm sure the Russians made use of Sir Isaac Newton's work to get sputnik up there.

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