back to article Orion 'Mars' ship: Cosmic ray guard? Go. Parachutes? Go. Spacerock shield? Go!

NASA’s potentially Mars-bound spaceship is set for its first test flight today, with a 70 per cent chance of good weather for the blast-off. Orion on the launch pad fuelling up The space agency has just finished fuelling up Orion, which it hopes will be the successor craft to Apollo and will carry astronauts to the Moon, …

  1. TRT Silver badge

    That paint job...

    reminds me of this.

  2. Vinyl-Junkie
    Thumb Down

    Disappointed!

    This isn't the Orion spacecraft I was hoping for...

    This is: http://www.scifiairshow.com/ships-orion.html

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Disappointed!

      Nothing like my disappointment!

      This isn't the Orion spacecraft I was hoping for...

      This is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_(nuclear_propulsion)

      1. AbortRetryFail

        Re: Disappointed! (@Paul Crawford)

        Yup. When I saw "Orion Spacecraft" I too thought of Project Orion

        I confess I originally learned of it from reading Footfall by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, and then being amazed to find it was actually real (as you point out).

        1. steve harris

          Re: Disappointed! (@Paul Crawford)

          God was knocking, and he wanted in bad

      2. Vinyl-Junkie

        Re: Disappointed!

        I also thought about mentioning this one, but decided that it was not something I'd be hoping for (especially if I lived near the launch site!). I too first encountered this in Footfall and then discovered it was real.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Disappointed!

          With an appropriate ground plate you could live fairly near one and not be too badly off.

          The one in Footfall however, would not be pleasant to be near.

    2. Jan 0

      Re: Disappointed!

      If that existed in 1967, how come the Virgin 'spaceship' is taking so long?

      1. TeeCee Gold badge
        Coat

        Re: Disappointed!

        Well as it's supposed to be a Virgin spaceship then presumably every time it gets fucked they have to start again with a new one.....

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      Re: Disappointed!

      I bought the plastic glue-together model way back when, Revell I think, it couldn't make orbit and shattered on the concrete path out front -

  3. SnowCrash
    FAIL

    WTF??

    "4,000 degrees Fahrenheit"

    1. Stuart 22

      Re: WTF??

      "4,000 degrees Fahrenheit"

      Unit of choice for an imperial power?

      1. A. Coatsworth
        Facepalm

        Re: WTF??

        but... but... I thought the NASA were proper boffins. Don't they use El Reg's Unit System or, at the very least, Metric?

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: WTF??

          No, they don't. They don't even use Imperial measurements, but some random system that uses the same unit names as Imperial but has different measurements(!) in random places where you least expect them.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hope they've put extra strings on the parachute!

    That six foot thick lead shield is going to be a bit weighty.

    1. PassiveSmoking

      Re: Hope they've put extra strings on the parachute!

      Fortunately high density plastics do the job just as well and weigh a lot less.

  5. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Off to the Smithsonian with ot!

    the reusable craft

    About as reusable as an Apollo capsule, I reckon.

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Off to the Smithsonian with ot!

      I think all the new capsule designs (Orion, Dragon) are designed to be reusable. They just haven't reused them yet.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Off to the Smithsonian with ot!

        Dragon2 is designed to land on land. So re-using that ought to be a lot easier than something that splashes down in nasty, salty seawater. Especially if the astronauts have to blow a hatch, and the thing gets water inside it.

  6. PaulyV

    Temperature

    I am guessing the temperature you reach when coming back from the moon is hotter due to your hurtling back through the atmosphere faster after the return trip???

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Temperature

      Yes. Mars return is even faster. SpaceX's Pica-X heat shield was designed for Mars return.

      1. PaulyV

        Re: Temperature

        Good lord - a space fact I never knew (or considered) was that the speed you hit the Earth depends on how far out your have been. Makes sense if you are not taking engines which retard your speed back with you.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Temperature

          If you're coming down from orbit, then you'll be going just a bit less than orbital velocity of 17,500 mph.

          Earth escape velocity is about 25,000 mph. That's what you need in order to get to the Moon or Mars. As it takes lots of fuel to get that, it's too difficult to carry enough to slow down much on the way back. Hence you brake using the atmosphere.

          From memory you only pull about 3G on normal re-entry, whereas the astronauts returning from the Moon had to put up with something like 6. And Apollo 13 was more, because they got the entry angle slightly wrong.

          Obviously you want to go to Mars as quickly as possible, so there's a balance between how much you accelerate to speed up the trip, how much fuel you can take to slow down - and how much pain you're willing to put up with on aerobraking. I guess this is another reason that they want to take their Earth re-entry craft with them all the way to Mars, as it woulld take too much fuel to be able to slow back down to orbital velocity and rendevous with one (the craft may be lighter than the fuel otherwise needed). Also the Orion is a lifeboat, as you can abort directly to Earth if the rest of the Mars ship breaks down. NASA presumably decided the AA were too expensive...

          1. jai

            Re: Temperature

            but they do all this amazing slingshot actions with satellites to speed them up on their way off to the far reaches on the solar system...

            can't they also factor in a similar way of slingshotting in a way that bleeds off speed so that eventually they end up just orbiting the earth. and can then drop in as a normal re-entry, or dock with the ISS and go home in the next supply shuttle or something.

            it's going to add a lot of time to the mission i guess....

            1. Tom 13

              Re: all this amazing slingshot actions with satellites

              The tradeoff there is time spent exposed to higher radiation levels. The sorts of things we do with satellites aren't as sensitive to that as humans are.

              1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

                Re: all this amazing slingshot actions with satellites

                but they do all this amazing slingshot actions with satellites to speed them up on their way off to the far reaches on the solar system...

                Unfortunately, the Big Jupiter is on the OTHER side of Mars...

  7. TheProf
    Coat

    Model

    Ah! So it's a model of the Orion in it's launch configuration that Howard (Big Bang Theory) has recently acquired.

    He also has a Space 1999 Eagle model.

    It's a quiet day!

  8. Anonymous John

    Hold!

    Some twat has sailed a boat into restricted waters.

    Revised launch time now 7:17am EST (1217 GMT).

    1. FunkyEric

      Re: Hold!

      Sink 'em!

    2. Vinyl-Junkie
      Mushroom

      Re: Hold!

      Given what happened last time, I hope not!

      Icon closest thing to rocket exploding just above the pad I could find...

    3. Longrod_von_Hugendong

      Re: Hold!

      WAFI's have always been a problem...

    4. Anonymous John

      Re: Hold!

      Another hold. Ground wind violation this time.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Hold!

        Ground wind violation this time.

        Some of mine have been pretty loud, say the morning after curry with real ale. But no-ones ever cancelled a rocket launch on my account...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its Amazing Really...

    All the technical people they need to lanuch a rocket to the stars, in this case the Moon, and yet all it takes, once they're on the Moon is someone in the capsule to press a button and weeeeeeee they blast off for home.....unbelievable some might say.

    1. PaulyV

      Re: Its Amazing Really...

      The joys of having no atmosphere and little gravity.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Its Amazing Really...

        Funny you should say that PaulyV, when i was a nipper, we were told that the Moon had a gravity that was 'one third' that of the Earth. About 12 months ago i heard one of the BBC space correspondents say that the Moon has a gravity that is 'one sixth' that of Earth. Maybe the Moon has been on the Atkins?

        1. no-one in particular

          Re: Its Amazing Really...

          > Maybe the Moon has been on the Atkins?

          Or the Earth's gravity has increased; that is surely the only explanation for all the bathroom scales...

          1. VinceH

            Re: Its Amazing Really...

            "Or the Earth's gravity has increased; that is surely the only explanation for all the bathroom scales..."

            That would certainly explain mine. I presume the atmosphere has thinned out a bit now, as well, so there is reduced air pressure - which might explain my slightly expanding stomach.

            But for the AC - the Moon's gravity was 1/6 of Earths when I was a nipper. (I left school in the mid 1980s.)

    2. cray74

      Re: Its Amazing Really...

      "All the technical people they need to lanuch a rocket to the stars, in this case the Moon, and yet all it takes, once they're on the Moon is someone in the capsule to press a button and weeeeeeee they blast off for home.....unbelievable some might say."

      Cherrypick some data, dismiss hundreds of support staff for the Apollo LEM flight in Houston, and then, yes, you can look it unbelievable.

      The Apollo LEM went through most of the same preparations that any rocket goes through: years of planning, months of readying on Earth (fueling, charging, safing), huge numbers of personnel providing navigational support, and everything else. The difference is that a few days before the LEM's launch it was put on "hold" and stored pending astronauts pressing "a button." (Where "a button" means "going through long flight check lists of preparations to launch the ascent stage, including programming the LEM's computer based on the input of navigational teams on Earth to intercept the actual orbit of the Apollo CSM, which was not exactly the planned orbit.")

      Or, if you like, you could compare the Apollo LEM to the liquid-fueled ICBMs of the era. Those also required relatively minimal preparation compared to a conventional launcher.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2 stroke, 4 star, Diesel?

    I wonder what type of fuel they used to blast off from the Moon for Earth back in the Sixties?

    On earth they use Liquid Hydrogen, a volatile substance that has to be watched over by hundreds of technicians and ground staff and yet on the moon they need nobody....funny that.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Well, being no rocket scientist I don't know for sure, but it may have something to do with the fact that Earth's average atmospheric temperature is at least 288 kelvin, whereas in space it's only 3 (in the shade).

      Given that liquid hydrogen is solid below 20 kelvin and gaseous otherwise, that might explain things.

    2. mtp

      Re: 2 stroke, 4 star, Diesel?

      Launching from the Earth is much harder work than from the Moon so on the return trip huge and delicate cryogenic engines were not required.

      https://xkcd.com/681/

    3. cray74

      Re: 2 stroke, 4 star, Diesel?

      "I wonder what type of fuel they used to blast off from the Moon for Earth back in the Sixties?"

      The Apollo Service Module and both ascent and descent stages of the Apollo Lunar Excursion module used Aerozine 50 (a 50/50 mix of hydrazine and UDMH) and nitrogen tetroxide.

      "On earth they use Liquid Hydrogen, a volatile substance that has to be watched over by hundreds of technicians and ground staff and yet on the moon they need nobody"

      The Saturn V used kerosene and liquid oxygen in its Saturn IC first stage, then hydrogen and oxygen in its second (Saturn II) and third (Saturn IVB) upper stages.

      The Delta IV used by Orion is unusual in that it uses hydrogen/oxygen for all of its ground (booster, core) stages. You typically want lower impulse engines like solids or kerosene/oxygen on the first stage for a couple of reasons. One, you shed weight quickly and thus reduce gravity losses during ascent. Two, you get more thrust from dense fuel motors than low density motors for a given engine weight. (The best hydrogen/oxygen engines manage a ~75:1 thrust-to-weight ratio, while SpaceX is flying kerosene/oxygen engines with ~150:1 thrust-to-weight ratios, and even the overbuilt F-1 engine of Apollo managed ~100:1.) Delta IV's engine selection was a compromise based on costs, engine availability, and engine simplicity.

      "....funny that."

      Not really when you look at the different situations and engineering requirements.

      Regarding Earth launch vs Moon launch engines, the situations are radically different on several counts. The overriding issue for Earth launches is the huge amount of delta-V (and thus fuel) you need to get into Earth orbit. That calls for high-efficiency fuels like hydrogen/oxygen, at least in weight-sensitive upper stages. The moon's delta-V launch requirements are radically lower, and the engineering impact of being so much further down the exponential Rocket Equation curve is fascinating: you don't need multiple stages to reach orbit; you don't need high thrust-to-weight ratios (so you can over-build and simplify your engines for reliability); and you don't need high-efficiency fuels.

      On the other hand, NOT having hundreds of techs and engineers and a vast support infrastructure on hand for a launch from the lunar surface means you need to make compromises in the name of reliability. The Apollo LEM used toxic propellants that can be stored without heavy insulation and boil off that hydrogen and, to a lesser extent, liquid oxygen suffered. While the LEM could've used kerosene (or ethanol) and liquid oxygen (or hydrogen peroxide) with only modest storage problems, Aerozine 50 and nitrogen tetroxide had the advantage of easy ignition: they ignited when they touched each other. Weight limits meant the LEM could only have 1 engine, so it HAD to work without adding complicated ignition systems. Hence, toxic, hypergolic propellants were used. NASA has been trying to eliminate those propellants for decades, even suggesting overhauling the shuttles to use ethanol / oxygen. They're nasty enough that even Russia has taken steps to reduce the amount of hydrazine, UDMH, and nitrogen tetroxide it splashes across Siberia from spent stages.

      In the past...heck, even now, in Russia...some rockets do use the Apollo LEM's propellants because of their simplicity and storability. They were the liquid propellants of choice for early ICBMs, but much-safer solid rockets replaced them. (They're storable without refrigeration, but a small corrosion leak between hypergolic, toxic propellants can turn a missile silo into a roman candle, or at least kill the technicians with their fumes. Hence: solids.) For civilian rockets that don't need to be stored in silos for years, you have additional options like kerosene/oxygen and hydrogen/oxygen, which give better performance without as much instant lung-burning death as the LEM's propellants.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    <Orion 'Mars' ship: Spacerock shield? GO. Parachutes? GO. Cosmic ray guard? GO!

    Pensions secure for a MINIMUM of 20 Years? GO!

  12. Omgwtfbbqtime Silver badge
    Flame

    Anyone produced it in Kerbal yet?

    Might have to play tonight.

    1. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: Anyone produced it in Kerbal yet?

      I was just thinking the exact same thing.

      We're all going to be screwed when the KSP team implement re-entry properly. At the moment, you can return from the Mün and slam into Kerbal at 3 Kps with a 90 degree angle and still survive.

      1. cray74

        Re: Anyone produced it in Kerbal yet?

        "We're all going to be screwed when the KSP team implement re-entry properly."

        Like an escort at a power tool convention. None of the behemoth interplanetary stacks I just aerobraked into Duna orbit had a decent reentry shield.

        "At the moment, you can return from the Mün and slam into Kerbal at 3 Kps with a 90 degree angle and still survive."

        At least the speeds are much lower than in reality. A few minutes of heating from 3kps to 100m/s wouldn't raise skin temperatures to the extremes that a normal Earth orbit reentry faces.

      2. mark.d

        Re: Anyone produced it in Kerbal yet?

        Saw a Scott Manley vid a couple of days ago where he launched using a bajillion (technical term) physics-less components. After constant acceleration towards mun it hit and bounced back along its arrival path.

        The craft exceeded the speed of light.

  13. Alistair Silver badge
    Linux

    Ustream doesn't like me.

    Having to watch this on FF on Win7 in KVM.

    /fail nasa, assault your distribution platform with a common sense club

    Waiting for winds to die off.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Take Offs from Earth are very violent affairs.

    And yet on the Moon they're very 'genteel', No violence of the rocket motor, no 'heat bloom' as the capsule takes off for home and no' 'glow' of the rocket engine......maybe Nvidia or ILM can sort those things out for next time?

    1. cray74

      Re: Take Offs from Earth are very violent affairs.

      "No violence of the rocket motor,"

      You stand near a launching LEM and tell me there's no violence. All rocket engine firings near a surface in a vacuum (on the moon) or a near vacuum (on Mars) have produced quite a bit of violence, scouring the surface and driving dust and light debris. The Apollo landers all had varying degrees of damage to their rocket nozzles and undercarriage from debris. The "sky crane" system of Curiosity was meant to protect the rover from debris kicked up the rocket blasts, but failed - Curiosity at least lost part of its mast-mounted wind speed system to a wire nicked by a rock.

      "no 'heat bloom' as the capsule takes off for home"

      Of course not. The Aerozine 50/nitrogen tetroxide mix scarcely produces visible flames in the atmosphere where there's other gases to heat up and cause side reactions with the combustion products. In a vacuum, you'd need to stare straight up the rocket nozzle to see a glow. With low resolution TV cameras used on the lunar surface to follow the launch, you're not going to see much of anything.

      http://www.braeunig.us/space/pics/hoax/photo18.jpg

      Aerozine 50/nitrogen tetroxide are quite similar to a number of other rocket propellants in their lack of "glow." I'm sure you've seen that alcohol flames are hard to spot, while hydrogen/oxygen fires also tend to be hard to see unless something else is caught in the combustion (like the skin of the Hindenberg or the ablative lining of Delta IV rocket engines). Supposedly, early rocket scientists working around H2/O2 rocket test stands would walk with a straw broom held in front of them to help detect a burning hydrogen leak - the broom would burst into visible flames if a hydrogen fire was encountered.

    2. Alistair Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Take Offs from Earth are very violent affairs.

      The problem with assuming that the **entertainment** industry actually makes the *movies* you watch completely and utterly accurate to the real world is that, well, the real world is horrendously boring to the vast majority of humanity. Then when reality comes along you make incorrect assumptions about what you believe you should have seen.

      Me? I'm not an ass. I'm a grumpy old bastard.

  15. Extra spicey vindaloo

    This is fun,

    I like listening to nasa tv, while I work, as they go through emergency hold after emergency hold.

    Currently they have booster fuel valve problems.

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. GX5000

    NASA already knows we're not going manned to Mars anytime soon, but the FOX public demands delusions. Until we solve the bone mass, iris detaching in mid trip issues and find a way to keep the new Martians supplied, it'll be a death trap (This is all published info too).

    Love the Reality Show angle too, life is turning into one since you can't believe anything anymore !

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: GX5000

      Not 'Reality Show' but Religion! Space exploration is about 'Belief' rather than reality. Its a bit like the Turin Shroud....its fake but, if they acknowledge this, a lot of people are going to have to find a new career.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here is a link to NASA's statement on Orion's radiation shielding. They do NOT claim to use use high density polymers as commented above. They just huddle behind boxes of food.

    http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/np-2014-03-001-jsc-orion_radiation_handout.pdf

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