back to article Third European supply podule blasts off en route to space station

The third European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-3) robot supply craft to the International Space Station blasted off successfully from Kourou spaceport in French Guiana at 04:34 GMT this morning. Watch live streaming video from eurospaceagency at livestream.com The ATV, named Edoardo Amaldi after the famous Italian …

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WTF?

By now

I'd have hoped by now this sort of activity would be so routine they wouldn't feel the need to give an orbiting transit van a special name.

It just shows how far we've still got to go.

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Gold badge
Joke

Re: By now

You mean that you haven't given your transit van it's very own, special name?

Mine is called Conan the Destroyer, but I won't say what it does to inconsiderate gilipollas who just park their car whereever they want; this is a public forum :)

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Joke

Podule?

You mean that there's an Acorn up there to plug it into?!? Even a blind cosmonaut...

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Silver badge

Now, why don't they whack a heat shield. parachute, a few padded seats and a life support system in there and make it a manned space tug??

Surely it cant be THAT hard to convert the ATV into a manned vehicle?

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Anonymous Coward

The Ariane V itself is already man-rated (or was, newer versions may not be) as it was designed to launch the franco-german shuttle the Hermes, which was cancelled in the early 90s because it was unrealistic.

They have, briefly, toy with the idea of up-rating an ATV and attaching a re-entry pod to the thing (under a variety of names like crew transport vehicle, automated crew transport system), but the problems faced, especially failed launch escape and re-entry systems are actually extremely challenging. There's a small re-entry test program underway in the form of the IXV, but other than that the issue has been dead since Hermes.

It's simply cheaper, for the moment, to send people up on the Soyuz-FG (and to that end they've built a Soyuz pad at Kourou) and in the medium term perhaps look to contracting services or designs from SpaceX or their like. The cost of developing a manned system is just too great to be looked at in europe for at least the next decade, especially when the Soyuz-FG/TMA does the job so well, not to mention Dragon is just around the corner.

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The Soyuz pad at Kourou is not for manned vessels, and it cannot be adapted.

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Silver badge

I dispair

All these years and were are still building these things a millions of euros of expense ultimately to burn them up. The public sector really has fucked up the space industry I'm sure it's all in aid of snouts in troughs.

Here's a though why dont we just bung half the cash to SpaceX and half to the Russians? Both are far better at doing more with less.

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Mushroom

Re: I dispair

In the case of the Russians, you certainly get more bang for your buck.

How many failed launches have they had recently?

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Re: I dispair

Five.

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So I guess that the $1.6 BILLION fronted by NASA is 'little'...

The idea that NASA has not committed a lot of money or time to COTS is a recurring claim on this site. It is an incorrect claim.

The reason that Shuttle had to be extended two years (and even THEN leave a gap in American manned-launch capability) is because COTS has taken longer than expected. I want COTS to succeed, it saves taxes for me (and other American taxpayers). It just hasn't met its dates, yet.

The annual ESA launches (and JAXA launches) augment the lowest-cost and most-frequent Roscosmos launches. At least until the two COTS providers get their acts together.

SLS is NOT about going to the ISS. I don't know how many times that needs to be said. No one else is doing a deepspace research project, yet. NASA wants one.

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Thumb Up

Open about names but not about money...

While it is good that Europe's set to (more or less) send supply capsules on a yearly basis to deliver stuff (and give the ISS a bit of a push to a higher orbit), why are the costs not widely available for all to see?

I mean, I'm sure that, besides European governments, other governments & space agencies have a pretty clear idea about how much a European ATV & mission costs, so why don't we?

And ending European funding and throwing the money to the US or Russia? Not a good idea, the Ariane/European space program doesn't seem to be extremely expensive (can't be sure though, see above) but they do keep hi-tech people employed, which is good and creates a lot of spin-off technology/business/applications etc.

And before Beachrider comments about me supporting European space workers while calling for SLS to be cancelled even though it supports American space workers, let me say that it APPEARS that ESA, even on its very limited budget, produces results that give a reasonably good (could be better, admittedly) return vs money invested.

SLS, whatever its benefits, is horribly expensive, and so the ratio of return vs money invested is much too one-sided.

And in a year or so, the Falcon Heavy will fly, offering most of SLS's capacity at a fraction of SLS's price...

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So long as you forget that SLS is 2.6 times the lift and deepspace capable...

I hope that Falcon Heavy works. It saves money for me. I just need to see COTS start hitting its key dates. It hasn't, so far.

SpaceX just had its CEO advise that he would like to offer rides to Mars by 2022 for $500K. This is a stunningly low price. He won't hit it. That is why I worry about his musings until he gets closer to actual implementation.

Guys like Musk are fun for conjecture. I just wouldn't put my life (or all of my future-poker-chips) in their hands until they get closers to having something functional.

SLS is REALLY expensive. It is the ONLY deepspace heavy-lift system that will come online in the next 15 years. I don't want to cut it off until COTS/JAXA/ESA/Roscosmos shows that they have a cheaper alternative. We can cancel SLS in 2013, if we choose. Given the current progress of COTS/JAXA/ESA/Roscosmos, SLS is likely to be funded into 2015, though.

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Stop

SLS (again)

Quote

We can cancel SLS in 2013, if we choose. Given the current progress of COTS/JAXA/ESA/Roscosmos, SLS is likely to be funded into 2015, though.

Unquote

Heavy sigh.

The first SLS isn't scheduled to fly until December 2017, with a strong possibility of slipping into the 1st or 2nd quarter of 2018. That's not a dig at SLS by the way, it's just that most new rockets slip to the right a bit (or a lot).

So money will be spent on SLS, under your thinking, up to the end of FY 2015. Wikipedia, to keep the sources simple and allow everything to be verified, says that "...SLS program has a projected development cost of $18 billion through 2017, with $10B for the SLS rocket, $6B for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and $2B for upgrades to the launch pad and other facilities at Kennedy Space Center."

Assuming that starts in FY 2012 then that works out at 3 billion dollars a year. FY's 2012, 2013, 2014 & 2015 equal...

12 billion dollars...

...for a rocket that is likely to be cancelled before it ever flies.

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Re: SLS (again)

No need to use Wiki and do a linear extrapolation. NASA has published it. The costs this year are1.8, next year is a little higher. The costs don't get over 2B/ann until they actually start building rockets.

This IS a more expensive way to do it than committing to a 10 year program, though.

As to 'likely', you are entitled to your opinion. Do you think that it is 'likely' that Musk gets folks to Mars in 2022 at $500,000 each?

On a related topic, no one is castigating the J-2x investment. We all seem to agree that a more-powerful upper-stage LOX/LH2 rocket is needed there...

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Stop

Re: SLS (again)

Fair enough, we'll use your figures. 1.8 billion dollars per year for FY2012, 2013, 2014 & 2015. That's 7.2 billion dollars spent with no rocket in sight for the next two years after while the competitor (SpaceX) is 'likely' to have an operational (first test flight is in 2013) medium-heavy-lift rocket (Falcon Heavy) available at a fraction of that cost.

I can see why the Spaceflight Committee wants to safeguard the space jobs that are in their own districts - politics is politics - but the price comparison, currently circulating around people with a strong interest in spaceflight, is bound to be brought into the open, probably before the end of FY2015.

"What's that?" they'll say, "We're spending HOW MUCH for this rocket? And it hasn't even flown yet? And won't until probably 2018? And won't fly more often than once a year? And the Private Sector has a rocket that offers 3/4's the capacity? At a fraction of the price? Oh, hell no, we're not keep paying for this monstrosity!"

To be followed by the rest of Congress/Public Interest/TV Talking Heads all jumping in, ending with the cancellation of SLS - After billions (7.2 billion dollars?) of dollars have been spent, with no rocket having ever flown.

There IS a need for a heavy-lift rocket but there's also a need to get a certain value for money spent. SLS, while providing jobs, doesn't return enough which WILL (I'm very sure) end in its cancellation. For the same money, they could design a Shuttle MkII, something with lower operating costs, quicker & simper turnaround and most of the lift/function capability of the original shuttle. That'd be a much higher return on investment.

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You keep getting fanciful with the numbers...

1) Falcon 9 Heavy isn't as big as SLS (50MT vs 130MT) to LEO

2) Falcon 9 Heavy will FREEZE SOLID in deepspace, SLS won't (RP1 vs LOX/LH2)

3) SLS is being slow-tracked (a MUCH more expensive route) so that we can cancel it, if we want

4) Falcon 9 Heavy is targeted at Delta IV Heavy. It 'hopes' that SLS is irrelevant.

5) Exactly 2 Falcon 9s have even flown. No Falcon Heavy rockets are being flown in 2012.

6) Delta IV has been flying since 2002. Delta IV Heavy since 2004.

7) Prices: Falcon 9 ($56Mln), Falcon 9 Heavy ($125Mln 5x Falcon 9 payload), Delta IV ($200Mln 1.2x F9) and Delta IV Heavy ($300Mln 2.4x F9). Roscosmos Proton is $85Mln (2x F9).

... Roscosmos is CHEAPER than anyone, including SpaceX, but SpaceX should reduce the LEO cost for non-Roscosmos launches.

SLS isn't needed, unless the cost of J2-like second/third stages cuts into the deepspace payload SO MUCH that a bigger rocket is needed.

We might need SLS. I hope not, but NASA needs to continue the work, for now.

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Mushroom

Re: You keep getting fanciful with the numbers...

1. Falcon Heavy ISN'T as heavy as SLS, true. Then again, SLS isn't as heavy as SLS either. The 130-tonne payload version you mention isn't expected to exist unti 2030-something. Since we're talking about an SLS version that doesn't exist yet, how about the likely-to-exist-within-10-years Merlin 2 engine? That should increase FH payload up to around 65 to 75 tonnes. It might even enter service at the same time as the first scheduled SLS flight.

2. Falcon Heavy isn't going to deep space. It's going to LEO. So is SLS. It's the UPPER STAGE (with a range of choices there) that'll trot off to the moon or wherever. The Delta IV upper stage or any other upper-stage you can think of could fit, with a little work, on top of a FH. Raptor within ten years?

3. My concern about SLS, if it wasn't clear, was that the EXTREMELY high cost, vs little return, PARTICULARLY COMPARED TO THE PRIVATE SECTOR, means that the chance of cancellation is very high. The slow march just means it'll be cancelled without ever being flown.

4. FH will lift more than Delta IV Heavy, will cost a lot less and will be capable of flying more often.

5. [Cough]. See my earlier post about FH getting its test flight in 2013.

6. Delta IV is expensive and only lifts 22 tonnes to LEO. FH will double that with room to spare.

7. The Delta IV medium plus (wikipedia) lifts only 6.5 tonnes. LESS than F9. Four times the money, two-thirds the payload. The Delta IV Heavy (wikipedia) lifts 22 tonnes. Two and a bit times the payload, by your figures almost SIX TIMES the cost. Proton, I'll punt on for now (don't much about it - need to check).

A heavy-lift rocket IS needed but one so expensive that it's bound to be cancelled is something we can do without.

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Facepalm

Re: You keep getting fanciful with the numbers...

Nuts, did a typo.

7. Delta IV medium plus lifts 6.5 tonnes to GTO, not LEO. It'll lift about 15 tonnes to LEO. So it lifts more than F9. 1.5 times the payload, STILL four times the cost. Proton lifts about 22 tonnes - the same as Delta IV Heavy but Americans should have a cost-effective, capable AMERICAN launcher.

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Anonymous Coward

Wish I'd brought my 'acronym bingo' card, before I started reading this thread.

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SLS is not going to LEO...

I don't know why you keep making that up. It isn't true. You must presume that NASA is wrong.

Given your alternate reality (w/ SLS going only to LEO), there would certainly be no reason to build it.

Let us see the F9 lift some payloads. Musk has to start cargo in April/May and do a manned Dragon to ISS in early 2013. When he does all of that within budget, he will have a valid commercial mechanism.

Only after all of that can FH attempt to find a marketplace. There are VERY FEW loads that need that kind of lift. Musk is going to have to make that a profitable business.

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WTF?

Re: SLS is not going to LEO...

Ok, what?

SLS is going to LEO. It'll lift an upper stage and a capsule/module/probe/satellite/whatever which will make its own way to GTO/GEO/BEO/deep space or wherever.

I don't consider the upper stage and above to be part of SLS. SLS's job is simply to lift things to LEO. Once there, SLS deploys/releases everything above the docking ring and falls back to earth.

If you think otherwise, please supply a weblink showing SLS in lunar orbit, or in GEO or whatever.

You're right about the scarcity of loads for a 53-tonne-payload rocket. Then again, since there has never been an available rocket with that kind of lift, the payloads were never created.

If you build it, they will come...

Or at least that's what Elon Musk thinks and, given the need to expand mankinds access to space, he may well be right.

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There is no talking to you on this, you have a made-up WRONG objective

Nasa's primary description: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/588413main_SLS_Web_final.pdf

The fact that Stage1 is supposed to go beyond LEO is in EVERY document on SLS. It is the ONLY reason that LOX/LH2 expense is justified.

You cannot find even one place where NASA is talking about sending it to LEO.

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Mushroom

Pffft!

Ah, you're talking about the yet-to-exist Earth Departure Stage which will use the J-2X engine. Stage 1 of SLS will NOT go beyond LEO. It'll carry an upper-stage and, on fuel exhaustion, Stage 1 will drop back into the atmosphere to burn up or crash into the ocean (shocking waste of materials IMHO - at least SpaceX is TALKING about making their rockets reusable). The first couple of flights of SLS at least, if we indulge your fantasy of it making it that far, will not have this 2nd stage, instead they're talking about using a Delta IV upper-stage or something like it that already exists.

The EDS is being developed at the same time as SLS and is perhaps the only part of the SLS program that MIGHT survive the forthcoming cancellation. Nevertheless, I stand by my assertion that it should not be classified as 'part' of the SLS rocket because it, assuming it gets designed & built, can go on another rocket.

And NONE of this, amusing as it is, takes away from the much-too-little-return-for-way-too-much-money-spent-and-so-bound-to-be-cancelled reasoning that I've been advancing in this & other forums.

It's ironic that while the British company Reaction Engines is looking around for up to 10 billion dollars of funding for an SSTO that, according to their figures (I'm not an expert but I'd venture an opinion that they're not ridiculously far out), NASA is set to waste, and we're using your figures here, up to 7.2 billion dollars on a rocket that is likely to be cancelled before it even flies once.

An yet, in the face of this paradigm shift, you keep your man-crush for SLS beating strong...

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You just keep making it up.

Oh well. So long as your don't let facts get in your way...

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Mushroom

Re: You just keep making it up.

Yes, facts are so inconvenient...

Like the fact that the Upper Stage (the one with three J-2X engines) you're referring to isn't due to be used for the first flight...

Or even be in existence...

And it won't fly, or even exist, for the second... or the third... or fourth...

Or at all until the 2030's...

When the 130-tonne-payload version flies...

But yes, it'll be heading off to Deep Space any time now...

Because the huge costs and being only SLIGHTLY better than the private sector don't matter at all...

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