back to article NASA's Orion: 100,000 parts riding 8 million pounds of thrust

NASA has been putting its Orion capsule "crew display and control system" through its paces - a lean three-screen set-up designed as a user-friendly alternative to the "nearly 2,000 switches and controls" packed into the space shuttle. An engineer evaluates Orion’s display and control system. Pic NASA An engineer eyes Orion' …

Silver badge

The march of technology...

thrust... comparable to that of the Saturn V

Wow - after only 50 years they've managed to build a rocket with the same oomph as a Saturn V - what on earth will they achieve in the next 50 years?

[Must stop being so cynical...]

42
0
Reply
Silver badge
Unhappy

Re: The march of technology...

"thrust... comparable to that of the Saturn V"

And that only with strapping those dangerous fireworks to it as well.

19
0
Reply
Anonymous Coward

Re: The march of technology...

Technological progress doesn't necessarily mean that any given performance metric must increase continuously over time. For example, the technology used in airliners has moved on massively since 1969, and yet we have nothing of comparable speed to Concorde, as pure speed has not been the focus of development; reducing cost per passenger and improving safety has been. I'm not sufficiently au fait with rocket technology to comment on how it has progressed over the past 50 years, but I imagine something has changed.

13
1
Reply
Silver badge

Re: The march of technology...

the amount of pork available?

13
0
Reply
LDS
Silver badge

Re: The march of technology...

And they designed an Apollo capsule with LCD screens! What an achievement to replace a spaceplane like the Shuttle!

9
2
Reply

Re: The march of technology...

The F1 engines on the Saturn were a bit special.

The fuel pump was driven by a tubine that was spun up by an enclosed rocket or gas generator. This turbine developed 55,000 horsepower. in order to pump 2.5 tons of lox and kerosene a second to a pressure just over 1,000psi.

Rocket Science easy it' s all about the F=ma

Rocket Engineering now that's clever..

20
0
Reply
Gold badge
Unhappy

what on earth will they achieve in the next 50 years?

The shutting down of the International Space Station project and it's eventual burn up on re-entry rather than let it fall into the hands of those filthy forinners (like the Italians, who built 1/2 of it). :-(

This would be to fund the ever growing cuckoo that is the Congresses unstated desire to go to Mars (well to send a couple of guys to mars on a upteen $Bn flags and footprints mission) and show the world that only American can do truly stupid s**t inspiration stuff like that, y'know?

3
6
Reply
Silver badge

Re: The march of technology...

And they designed an Apollo capsule with LCD screens!

And they increased the pressurized volume from 366 cubic feet to 691 cubic feet; increased every major dimension; used new materials in everything but the heat shield and parachutes; increased cabin pressure; increased mass from 5,560kg to 10,387kg; increased crew capacity to 6; and managed to find room for a toilet so the crew wasn't stuck with baggies. Its also designed for reuse and 6 months of orbital storage.

There's certainly a retread of major Apollo design and operational features, but there's a bit more to it than Apollo + glass cockpit.

14
0
Reply
Anonymous Coward

Re: The march of technology...

after only 50 years they've managed to build a rocket with the same oomph as a Saturn V

yeah, but this time they had to do it without any nazis...

11
1
Reply
LDS
Silver badge

Re: The march of technology...

Right. Some small improvements, fifty years later. Capacity still inferior to the Shuttle, and far less comfortable. No payload capacity (including re-entry), no space operations capability (boom, payload bay). Orbital storage is not new either, given Sojuz does it with its old design.

They could also have designed a new Shuttle using newer, better materials (to avoid some of the tiles issue) and improved electronics. maybe reducing some of its complexity using some newer engineering. But it looks too hard for the younger engineers to design anything comparable.

Sure, they built something like the F-18E, an enlarged version of the F-18A, still inferior in everything to an older F-14 but the improved electronics.

Still an Apollo capsule with LCDs. And we will see how much it is reliable compared to the old design...

4
4
Reply
Anonymous Coward

Re: The march of technology...

"what on earth will they achieve in the next 50 years?"

Manned spaceflight?

2
0
Reply
Silver badge

Re: The march of technology...

I have to admit, I was at one point of my life obsessed with the technology behind space flight. I join you in your sentiments and agree with you completely. While the technology has progressed substantially in new rocket designs, as a technologist (self proclaimed) I am thoroughly disappointed with the rate of progress.

I believe that last 15 years of space travel has been a massive success for no other reason but having attempted to move past the nonsense related to the archaic model of development of space travel. I believe strongly that we have made far more progress since privatization of space flight has become a reality. Companies like SpaceX and Scaled Composites or even just John Carmack's endevours into vertical takeoff and landing has been a huge improvement.

SpaceX is likely to begin losing their agility before long. They are slowly letting NASA and the government in general have too much say in their development. Orion is a scary project because there is too much of the old model involved in their business.

I think that SpaceX and Bigelow combined could be wonderful. They could in theory open the path for making it possible to begin making far better space craft... in space. Maybe within ten years we'll see companies like Virgin shuttling people to and from a space station where they can construct large scale space transport without first needing heavy lifters like Orion. It would be optimal to launch large spacecraft as pieces on top of smaller vehicles, assemble them in space and then launch them. The next logical step wouldn't be going to the moon, but instead going to lunar orbit and establishing an orbital station that could be used as a station to ferry people too and from the moon using light weight vehicles well suited to the task.

The idea of Orion has always been scary because it suggests that we need to be able to reach our chosen destinations directly from the earth's surface. Building a rocket that can go directly to the moon always sounded stupid to me. A space station in earth's orbit and another in lunar orbit could make this far more efficient. Then there's mars and beyond. Just the cost of launching directly from earth to the moon is outrageous. The massive amount of fuel required is unacceptable.

How about the additional benefits of being able to keep rescue vehicles on the ready at the stations we build? As a result, it would pave a path that could truly limit the dangers of being stranded because all rescue missions would have to be launched from the earth's surface. I don't think we'll see personal space ships like those in the TV shows like FireFly any time real soon, but I do think we can see vessels making regular trips from earth to the moon to mars and back within 20 years.

Things are really improving and it's certainly a good thing to have another player in the game to reach space. But a massive vessel like Orion just seems like the wrong way to do it :(

1
0
Reply
Bronze badge

Re: The march of technology...

The "lack of progress" is political as you effectively state, the direct to moon was risk management.

Unfortunately there is a technology gap, until we can develop reliable, fully reusable launch architecture, orbital cost will not reduce significantly.

Until we have something that doesn't need 300-400 tons of fuel to get into orbit it won't become accessible to the masses. Which would be a massive technological leap.

There are proposals, Skylon is pushing the envelope of what we have, but it will require a radical technology to really change things.

0
0
Reply
Gold badge

Re: The march of technology...

Re: F1 engine pumps.

The really clever bit, that NASA never cracked as it was considered too difficult, is to eliminate the LOX pump, run the turbine combustion chamber with waaaay more oxygen than it needs and feed its exhaust into the main combustion chamber. This eliminates an entire pump assembly and also eliminates wasteful venting of LOX / kerosene unburnt in the turbine chamber via its exhaust. Hard bit is that the pressure of the exhaust from the pump turbine needs to be consistently higher than the pressure of the primary combustion chamber to avoid a very impressive bang.

It's called "oxygen rich, closed cycle" and is vastly more efficient. The Russians actually got it working for the N1 moon rocket but, as that project never existed........ Fortunately, the rocket scientist[1] tasked with destroying the evidence didn't and similar engines can now be seen at the bottom end of an Atlas booster.

[1] Which makes him not only a rocket engineer but a f***ing hero too in my book.

1
0
Reply
Silver badge
Headmaster

Re: The march of technology...

The Rocket Equation. No amount of internet whining will change it.

Now that they can add all the other tech to it, and the miniaturisation of a lot of other things, with improvements in material strength is where the progress is.

3
0
Reply
Silver badge

Re: The march of technology...

"They could also have designed a new Shuttle using newer, better materials (to avoid some of the tiles issue) and improved electronics. maybe reducing some of its complexity using some newer engineering."

In particular, getting away from the huge cost of the cross range capability insisted on but never used by the military. They have their own unmanned shuttle now.

0
0
Reply
Gold badge
Unhappy

For those who think SLs /Orion is money well spent.

12 years. 2 flights (if you include Ares 1x) $10-20 Bn spent.

Check here for an explanation of why this probably affects commercial crew as well.

Commercial Crew & Cargoes running tab is about $5Bn. It's delivered 2 new LV's and 3 payload carriers (Cygnus, Dragon and Dragon 2) and in the process of bringing the SNC Dream Chaser on line as well.

0
0
Reply
Anonymous Coward

Re: The march of technology...

"what on earth will they achieve in the next 50 years?"

Maybe a cell phone with decent voice quality?

1
0
Reply
Silver badge
Happy

Re: The march of technology...

And interestingly enough, a lot of the Saturn engine technology was engineered and built by Chrysler. I don't think they were hemis though :)

1
0
Reply

Re: The march of technology...

Yep. We've known since the 1960s that this is the wrong approach. The right one it to build a working space port, possibly in geosynchronous but also possibly lower orbit. Boost the parts to the port, assemble the rocket there. Similarly boost the fuel and fill it there. Then launch the rocket from the port to it's outer destination. Even better if we can build another port at the other end (although economics of returns dictates whether that is feasible), but at minimum we need one on this end.

1
0
Reply

Re: Manned spaceflight?

Not a chance. Although I hear we may be able to send monkeys.

0
0
Reply
Silver badge

Re: The march of technology...

"Until we have something that doesn't need 300-400 tons of fuel to get into orbit it won't become accessible to the masses. Which would be a massive technological leap."

We already have something which could get 30-50,000 TONS into orbit. From there, a wire can be trailed down to the ground.

What we need is a wire strong enough to be dangled that far. Perhaps nuclear lmitation treaties could be waived for the building of the first space elevator once we have it (once one's built the others can be shipped up on it.)

0
0
Reply
Silver badge

Re: The march of technology...

"eliminates wasteful venting of LOX / kerosene unburnt in the turbine chamber via its exhaust. "

It wasn't as wasteful as you think. That exhaust was run down the sides of the bell. It acted as an insulator and prevented the bells from melting. If the closed cycle engine had been built in F1 size (hint, it never has been), the materials technology of the day wouldn't have been good enough to use it in an engine of the F1's thrust.

N1 had 30 engines and was constructed in such a way that they formed an aerospike (efficient from sea level to vacuum). As such, that design may end up being the heavy liffter shape of the future.

1
0
Reply
Silver badge

Re: The march of technology...

"They could also have designed a new Shuttle using newer, better materials (to avoid some of the tiles issue) and improved electronics."

Just about all the shuttles shortcomings would be avoidable if the crossrange capability was removed. Those wings were the thing which turned it into a camel.

That said, Shuttle is a pickup truck. It should only have been used when you needed to take pickup-truck loads into (or out of) orbit. It was used far too much because that's all the USA had for manned launch and when you have a hammer every problem looks like a nail.

0
0
Reply
Gold badge
Unhappy

eliminate the LOX pump, "oxygen rich, closed cycle"

No it does not eliminate the LO2 pump it shares the turbine with the fuel pump. In effect you eliminate the separate gas generator, but put the fast spinning, highly loaded turbines in a much more hostile environment.

In the Russian nomenclature it's the main chamber / Afterburner system.

But the real clever one was tapping some of the gases off the main chamber and driving the turbines with those.

That's called "gas tapoff" but was too easy for the US to pursue until Blue Origin came along.

0
0
Reply

Three screens for a crew of four? Who gets left out?

This is especially disappointing compared to seat-back-infotainment systems in modern airliners; after all, the crew aren't going to be controlling anything so the screens are only there to distract them during launch and landing - game of Asteroids anyone?

10
3
Reply

Three monitors, four astronauts

Well hopefully they'll be working on staggered shifts to keep it going 24/7.

So on 'naut sleeping, one off duty (and playing asteroids), one on the last half of his/her shift manning one monitor and one on the first half of his/her shift manning the third.

That seems to work out about right.

2
0
Reply
Anonymous Coward

Re: Three monitors, four astronauts

That's right! Even a hard core box-set aficionado has to sleep sometime!

2
0
Reply

No big deal

What they don't tell you is......There's only one MOUSE..... Your all Doooomed! Dooomed I say.

4
0
Reply
Trollface

Re: There's only one MOUSE

This one?

8
0
Reply
Pint

Re: There's only one MOUSE

No, this one...

http://cdn.slashgear.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/ENGELBARTs_first_mouse.jpg

(Gets me coat, couple o' pints, darn, got the Altair schematic wet again...).

1
0
Reply
Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: There's only one MOUSE

I assume you mean this one?

The Mouse On The Moon

Icon shows a bottle of Grand Fenwick wine -->

0
0
Reply
Anonymous Coward

Re: There's only one MOUSE

"No, this one...

http://cdn.slashgear.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/ENGELBARTs_first_mouse.jpg"

Quite woody

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T70-HTlKRXo

0
0
Reply
Joke

Re: Doooomed!

Nah, that's not do out until 2023. Although I hear they do have a Kickstarter posted already.

0
0
Reply

John Glenn quote

“I guess the question I'm asked the most often is: "When you were sitting in that capsule listening to the count-down, how did you feel?" Well, the answer to that one is easy. I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of two million parts -- all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract.”

30
0
Reply
Anonymous Coward

Capsule's lean 3-screen control interface keeping it simple, though....

....in another 12 months NASA will be outsourcing these tasks to Bangalor and a bloke called Asheef who will be running the whole shebang of his mums smartphone.

11
1
Reply
LDS
Silver badge

Re: Capsule's lean 3-screen control interface keeping it simple, though....

The real issues will become apparent when they will call "Bangalore, we have a problem... and it's in your software"

0
0
Reply
Silver badge

Re: Capsule's lean 3-screen control interface keeping it simple, though....

And the prompt response from Bangalore will be: "This is Microsoft Support... you have a virus...." ?

3
0
Reply
Joke

Re: Bangalor and a bloke called Asheef

No, no. His name is Mark. He told so the last time he called my house because Microsoft had detected a problem on my roommate's Mac.

0
0
Reply
Alien

Dare I say it?

Let's hope the Operating Systems that they are using are robust...

Nothing would suck worse than seeing a blue (red, yellow) screen while in the middle of attempting a landing...

3
0
Reply
Silver badge

What?!

Noooo ... this is the age of DevOps!! I'm sure they'll be uploading new software builds with state of the art twitter widget updates while the countdown is in progress. We don't care about failure anymore remember? "Mean time to remediate" is what we're measuring now.

See upcoming conference and regular advertorials for details[*]

[*] Terms and conditions apply. Your life may be at risk if you fail to recognise bullsh1t when you hear it.

22
0
Reply
Silver badge

Re: What?!

Your life may be at risk if you fail to recognise bullsh1t when you hear it.

That's cool. Can I borrow it?

4
0
Reply
Pint

Re: What?!

@Lynsenko

I salute you, sir!

0
0
Reply
Silver badge

Re: Dare I say it?

On the other hand, you can't leave it to the end user to perform updates... A really tough problem this.

0
0
Reply
Silver badge

Re: Dare I say it?

"Nothing would suck worse than seeing a blue (red, yellow) screen while in the middle of attempting a landing..."

Or a 1201 alarm.

0
0
Reply
Thumb Up

If you're into this sort of thing and are within travel distance of London's Science Museum, I highly recommend the current 'Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age' exhibition. They've gathered an impressive number of actual space craft, and when you see them up close I guarantee you will be utterly terrified. I'm not normally that claustrophobic, but being buried alive seems preferable to me.

Astronauts have a level of bravery that is completely beyond my comprehension.

22
0
Reply

Exactly what I have planned for next Monday.

0
0
Reply
Silver badge

..and for me too, but on this Friday.

0
0
Reply
Silver badge
Happy

> Astronauts have a level of bravery that is completely beyond my comprehension.

In the Houston space center they have the capsules prior to the moon program. These pilots where put into tiny tin shells with plenty of switches around them. When I saw them my very first thought was "oh, dear!". Apparent safety measures: pray before you go.

Walking towards the Saturn 5 also caused repeated jaw dropping. One simply cannot appreciate the scale without standing near to it. My thoughts there: "America, fuck yeah!". A monument of dedication.

11
0
Reply
Silver badge
Trollface

ITYM...

"Nazi^H^H^H^H Germany, fuck yeah", right?

4
3
Reply

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018