Feeds

back to article Twenty-tonne space truck poised for ISS trip

The European Space Agency's latest Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) is poised for lift-off at the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana, and if its 20-tonne bulk makes it off the pad on 15 February, it'll be "the heaviest payload ever launched by Europe". The Johannes Kepler, named in honour of the German astronomer and …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
Pirate

looks like room for half a dozen seats in there

if some brave volunteers felt like man-rating it

3
0
Silver badge
Pint

alternatively...

Looks like room for a nice walk-in (sorry, float-in) fridge.

Beer, for obvious reasons!

0
0
Silver badge
Flame

Just need 1 (extra-wide) seat...

I'd be that brave volunteer!

1
0
Gold badge
Joke

Johannes Kepler?

They should have called it the "Zaphod Beeblebrox".

As the largest Ariane 5 launch yet, it stands a good chance of being the best bang since the big one........

2
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Pint

Living in the town where it was built

I really hope the launch will be a very boring one :)

Beer for the luck!

1
0

Eccentrica?

If it was a 3-stage rocket, of course

2
0
Coat

Vaguely planned

The back end has been designed so it could be used as the service module for a Dragon style capsule, there's also room for a pressurised tunnel down the middle so an ATV could be used as a mini space station with a docking port at each end. Put "ESA" and "ARV" into a certain famous search engine for more information than you probably wanted.

4
0
Stop

"... ahead of a de-orbit and re-entry burn-up over the Pacific."

That's a bummer.

With a modest sacrifice in cargo capacity, you could add a parachute pack and an ablative cork outerliner (like what SpaceX is doing with its Falcon series), and turn the pod into a reusable cargo module.

With a bit more engineering, various space-station modules could be designed to be de-orbited, recovered, repaired or upgraded with newer equipment, relaunched, and re-docked with the station.

The key is to use simple materials to keep things cost-effective.

On the other hand, NASA's Space Shuttle, while reusable and very versatile, requires specialised refurbishment using high-tech ceramics and adhesives, which detrimentally impacts its cost-effectiveness. The Shuttle is also in various ways a lot more fragile than a simple(r) cargo module, which impacts its safety, which again has a negative effect on its cost-effectiveness.

(Still, I am a bit saddened by its retirement. Unless a good, reliable Single-Stage to Orbit (SSTO) technology comes along, I doubt we'll ever see anything like it launched again.)

4
0
Silver badge

Re-useable?

From the ESA news page for this mission...

"Exceptionally, no drinking water will be delivered because there is already plenty aboard the ISS. The water tanks will, though, be filled with liquid waste from the Station before departure. "

There are times when single-use does sound like the preferrable option!

2
0
Gold badge
Coat

@K. Adams

"With a modest sacrifice in cargo capacity, you could add a parachute pack and an ablative cork outerliner (like what SpaceX is doing with its Falcon series),"

The capsule is called Dragon, Falcon is the launcher.

" and turn the pod into a reusable cargo module."

the key ablative is called PICAX, although their may be some cork used. Spacex seem keen on re-flying their capsules. Expdendable launch vehicle <> expendable capsule.

ESA have *talked* about enhancing the ATV design to act as a European capsule but has never got round to it.. The ARD programme demonstrated that Europe can do this.

"On the other hand, NASA's Space Shuttle, while reusable and very versatile, requires specialized refurbishment using high-tech ceramics and adhesives"

Reusable. Hardly. Refurbishable at best. The adhesive is "Room temperature vulcanisalbe" and is basically the stuff used to stick tiles to bathroom walls. But the tiles are specialized and expensive.

"Unless a good, reliable Single-Stage to Orbit (SSTO) technology comes along, I doubt we'll ever see anything like it launched again.)"

Depends what you mean by that.

"Like" as in wings? Possibly*. The cheapest *programme* option would be to go with a design which has lots of wind tunnel and flight experience IE the Orbiter shape. "Like" as in dump two refurbishable solid fuel boosters and an expendable propellant tank on the way up then I sincerely hope not. It would not be "Single Stage" would it?

As has been fairly well documented the STS was an architecture driven by a stupid funding pattern (which had *no* basis in the funding pattern of *real* large development projects), political coalition building and the technical failure of the engine manufacturers to deliver the spec they promised.

If you find the answer to the question is the STS architecture the *question* is FUBAR.

*Reaction Engines in the UK advocate a winged SSTO. Most SSTO supporters feel wings are a waste of mass and the cross range is unnecessary to the vehicles *primary* mission. The last serious attempt at a *preliminary* SSTO design was the DC-X with was large capsule shaped.

but planned to use a nose first entry (capsule cross range goes up quite a bit but so does heating).

Mines the one with the NASA Project Management handbook in the side pocket.

0
0
Bronze badge

Money

ESA have paper designs for a re-entry capsule built on the ATV 'bus' but that will cost money to design, build and fly and ESA's budget is pretty much tapped out with the existing Ariane flights for the next three ATVs including Kepler and their part of the Galileo project. There's also the Vega small scientific launcher AKA Berlusconi's Bottle Rocket which should fly for the first time this year as well as the new Soyuz launch facility being built in New Guinea to provide commercial Progress launches, all of which are costing more than planned (of course).

If Europe really wanted to get a man into space then using the new Soyuz launchpad would probably be best with a proven man-rated booster and capsule combo bought off-the-shelf from the Soviets, sorry, Russians rather than trying to man-rate the Ariane and design a capsule version of the ATV in another round of reinvent-the-wheel.

1
0
Gold badge

man-rate the Ariane

Originally the size of the Ariane 5 was just right to launch the Hermes space-plane, complete with humans, so human-rating was originally anticipated. However I don't know if any of that got dumped at the same time as Hermes.

As far as cost effective goes though, yes the Soyez certainly looks like the cheapest and most reliable way to launch humans to the ISS at the moment.

1
0
Gold badge
Happy

@Robert Sneddon

"If Europe really wanted to get a man into space then using the new Soyuz launchpad would probably be best with a proven man-rated booster and capsule combo bought off-the-shelf from the Soviets, sorry, Russians "

Almost certainly.

however

"rather than trying to man-rate the Ariane and design a capsule version of the ATV in another round of reinvent-the-wheel."

Ariane 5 was *planned* to be man rated (AFAIK) as the planned launcher for the Hermes space plane. It's not entirely clear to me if they went ahead and did it or if that "rating" has been preserved given the various upgrades it's had.

I would guess the capsule bit would be an enlarged ARD (which used the Apollo shape) which ESA flew some years ago from an ex-Russian SLBM (IIRC) and which went without a hitch.

The basis of NASA's version of man rating AFAIK is structural safety factor of 1.4 + abort detection system + something a meatsack can trigger to get the crew out of there + crew escape system to get them out of there.

The first is cheap if you're still in design phase and willing to knock off a bit of payload. The 2nd might need some additional hardware in the control package (which usually seems to be at the top end of the last stage. Odd given a lot of time it will be issuing commands to the engines at the bottom end of *all* stages) and the third would mean running some wires from the control package upward to the capsule. What to do when astronaut (cosmonaut? euronaut?) presses the big red button can be tricky (and is why Spacex is saying it would take 36 months from contract funding till they could fly a human carrying capsule)

I've unaware of the ESA version but I'll guess it's pretty similar.

0
0
Bronze badge

Man-rating

There are other factors in man-rating such as the acceleration profile of the flight. Hardware can be built to take 5-G plus for long periods during launch whereas meatbags don't work right in such conditions. Apollo and the Shuttle topped out at about 3G in flight as I recall. There's also vibration and sheer noise levels which can be too much for yoomans but which don't affect hardware in the same way.

Man-rating Ariane would cost money and would provide a native European human spaceflight capability assuming the funding and development of a home-grown capsule which would also cost money (and probably be over budget). At that point the world would have yet another man-rated launch system elbowing its way into a tiny launch market which has no real commercial return and which is already filled by the Soyuz system. After the Shuttles go to various museums the SpaceX Dragon or similar plus (maybe) the Ares 1 will fill in the US side of things or they'll simply buy seats from the Soviets, sorry Russians too.

0
0
Boffin

Man rating the future

Elon Musk fully intends to man rate the current Falcon 9 so he can use his capsule to boost crew to the ISS and other stations by 2015-16. Once the new Bigelow module is added to the ISS in two years, that will serve as an advert for all of these companies and programs to ramp up their goods and services, and we'll really see a rise in the number of manned launches by the end of the decade.

0
0
Bronze badge

Where are they going?

It was originally intended that the ISS was going to be "decommissioned" into the upper atmosphere in 2016 or so. The owners might extend its lifespan to 2020 but that's debatable and very dependent on funding. So where are these future manned launches going to go to? A replacement for the ISS isn't even a paper exercise at the moment let alone a fundable project, and like the Moonshot it's been done and there's no real point in doing it twice. Spam-in-a-can in orbit has been done and we don't really need to do that any more just to be doing it.

There's the Bigelow space-hotel balloons which have still not been tested for habitability and survivability, maybe a Mir 3 based on Progress modules by the Soviets, sorry Russians and that's it, basically. Any future Moonshot or manned Mars missions will involve new-design Big Dumb Boosters like the Ares V with a small manned-launch component but the days of lots of humans (i.e. more than ten at a time) in LEO is coming to an end with the Shuttle being retired and until someone finds a good reason for there to be lot of humans in space and is willing to pay for it then manned spaceflight is going to be quite rare after this decade is out.

0
1
Gold badge
Boffin

@Cochituate

"Elon Musk fully intends to man rate the current Falcon 9 so he can use his capsule to boost crew to the ISS and other stations by 2015-16. "

Falcon 9 is man rated. At least those aspects of its design that affect the process.

0
0
Gold badge

Man-rating & ARV

Apart from Gs, vibration, noise, temperature and breathable atmosphere, there is a major change in design philosophy when something is man-rated.

Generally speaking, for "reliable" stuff, you assume that everything must work after a single failure, and that failure can be anything. If something is really super-critical, or if there is risk of significant damage or human harm (e.g. a rocket taking out an entire launch complex), then you have to assume that you can have any failure, and any other un-related failure at the same time, and it will still be "safe"; It can fail, it can blow-up maybe, but won't destroy everything and kill everybody.

Now, when you have spam-in-a-can, you have to assume that for any two completely unrelated failures, everything will still carry on working no problems. Even in the event of a catastrophic failure, everything has to hold together and keep going straight for at least long enough for any escape system to operate and get the spam clear of the fireball that the launch system turns into.

That takes a lot of work upfront working out system architectures and overall designs, then later it takes an astranomical amount of work proving out that two entirely independant failures aren't a problem. Certainly some of the control systems of Arianne were designed with that in mind.

As for ARV, I thought that there was a plan for another run at ARV launched from the new VEGA rocket. The plan is still that ARV is for returning experiments from space rather than people, but maybe that is just s step on the way.

0
0
Boffin

@John Smith 19: Falcon 9 is Intended to be "Fully Reusable" (Eventually)

Details here, on NASA Spaceflight:

-- -- http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2009/01/musk-ambition-spacex-aim-for-fully-reusable-falcon-9/

And on Wikipedia:

-- -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_9#Reusability

Both stages of the Falcon 9 vehicle are covered in an ablative cork outerliner.

0
0
Silver badge

Pity

They have to de-orbit them and can "lego" or "kinect" a modular village of them eventually.

1
0
Silver badge

Surely someone from ESA reads this site

Is there no room in that 7 tonne payload for a Playmobilnaut?

2
0
Flame

Way To Go In These Times Of Financial Trouble

Surely (Shirley?) it would be safer and easier to just burn several hundred millions of dollars in bank notes in a big bonfire rather than a big bang shortly after launch or some time later during de-orbit?

1
2
Anonymous Coward

Not dollars.

This is an ESA project, it will have been paid for in Euros, not dollars.

If you can think of some way in which a big banknote bonfire will further our understanding of human space survival then go right ahead and put in a funding proposal.

Construction of the ISS was too expensive by an order of magnitude, but it's running costs are easily justified solely by having a test environment for space hardware.

Remember that before the ISS, space stations were pathetic things. Skylab fell apart, cooked itself, and was uninhabitable for long stretches of its life. Mir leaked like crazy, set itself on fire periodically, and had large sections closed off to prevent fungal growth spreading through the station. The ISS works, and continues to work. It shows us that getting around the solar system is just a matter of inventing the right engines for the job, and that life support is a solved problem.

3
0

ISS expansion

If not for the need to bring back garbage, the Kepler module could be made to stay at the ISS effectively exanding its size. This way, you could grow the iSS slowly over time by adding small "pods" to it.

As for re-entry burn, this sounds like it will pollute the air. Electronics is known for containing hazardous materials, so just burning it on re-entry seems like a bad idea. IIRC, ESA has some vague plans of making a landable version of the Kepler module, so things can be brought back intact. There are also vague plans of making a version capable of transporting human cargo. Both of these are, however, AFAIK, rather speculative at the moment.

0
0
This topic is closed for new posts.