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' …

  1. Pen-y-gors 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...]

    1. hplasm 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.

      1. kmac499

        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..

        1. TeeCee 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. TechnicalBen 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.

          2. Alan Brown 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.

          3. John Smith 19 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.

        2. Unicornpiss 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 :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      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.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Re: The march of technology...

        the amount of pork available?

      2. CheesyTheClown

        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. annodomini2

          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.

          1. Alan Brown 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.)

    3. 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!

      1. cray74

        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.

        1. 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...

          1. John Brown (no body) 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.

          2. Alan Brown 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.

    4. John Smith 19 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?

      1. John Smith 19 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.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      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...

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The march of technology...

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

      Manned spaceflight?

      1. Tom 13

        Re: Manned spaceflight?

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

    7. Anonymous Coward
      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?

    8. Tom 13

      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.

  2. Anonymous Blowhard

    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?

    1. Captain DaFt

      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.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Three monitors, four astronauts

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

  3. PaulAb

    No big deal

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

    1. AbelSoul
      Trollface

      Re: There's only one MOUSE

      This one?

      1. Mpeler
        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. Anonymous Coward
          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

      2. David 132 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 -->

    2. Tom 13
      Joke

      Re: Doooomed!

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

  4. Keith Oborn

    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.”

  5. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. 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"

      1. Mark 85 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...." ?

    2. Tom 13
      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.

  6. picturethis
    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...

    1. Lysenko

      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.

      1. John G Imrie

        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?

      2. John 104
        Pint

        Re: What?!

        @Lynsenko

        I salute you, sir!

    2. anonymous boring coward 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.

    3. Alan Brown 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.

  7. ColonelClaw
    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.

    1. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

      Exactly what I have planned for next Monday.

      1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

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

    2. GrumpenKraut 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.

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
        Trollface

        ITYM...

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

        1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

          Re: ITYM...

          > Germany, fuck yeah", right?

          Actually, no. Different mechanisms IIRC and importantly, different goals.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. Tom 13

        Re: Walking towards the Saturn 5

        I've been to the one at Canaveral instead of Houston, but concur completely. Haven't been in a while but every time I did, it was just as impressive as the previous visit. I've never done a complete tour when visiting because we always spend too much time looking at the Saturn V. (I've skipped different parts on different trips, so I have in some sense done the complete tour. But I never skip the Saturn V.)

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "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."

      I've seen WWII mini-subs up close. They terrified me and massively increased my respect for the submariners who went out in them!

      1. Tom 13

        I think minisubs were the models used for space capsules because the minisubs let you see where you could save some space on the capsule design.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "I've seen WWII mini-subs up close. "

        There's a type IIa prototype U-boat opened up as a visitor attraction on the fortress island (Suomenlinna) in Helsinki Harbour - http://uboat.net/boats/vesikko.htm for anyone interested.

        That was bad enough, although I think it's worth visiting Helsinki just for the Uboat.

  8. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    100,000 parts to strap on, screw down and tighten up?

    Hope it comes with instructions...

    1. John G Imrie
      Happy

      Now insert tab AAAAAZA into slot BCDBA

    2. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

      > Hope it comes with instructions...

      and the hex key.

    3. Robert Moore

      > Hope it comes with instructions...

      Yes it does, but they were designed by the same person who does the Ikea assembly instructions.

      1. Not That Andrew

        So, perfectly clear and understandable to anyone with half a brain, then?

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          "So, perfectly clear and understandable to anyone with half a brain, then?"

          ...and impossible for anyone of at least normal intelligence. Marketing people and PHBs seem to manage fine with them.

  9. DropBear Silver badge

    "Over the next 18 months"

    I can't shake the feeling Musk could get it done in three...

  10. wolfetone Silver badge

    3 Screens?

    Next they'll be telling us there's just two buttons on the control panel. A Big Green one saying Go, and a Big Red one saying Stop.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 3 Screens?

      They're multifunctional displays like those you find in actual military planes. Just you need to get enough reliability from the bunch of controls left, because even if they could be remapped to other ones, still they control a lot of different stuff. The old way of a dedicate control (and maybe more than once) for each function was there for increased reliability of the whole system.

    2. John G Imrie

      Re: 3 Screens?

      It's a black button, on a black background, with a little light, that lights up black, to show you when you have pressed it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 3 Screens?

        I'd give you an upvote, but I'm spending the year dead for tax reasons.

    3. leon clarke
      Joke

      Re: 3 Screens?

      Nope. You can't stop the solid boosters once they're going.

    4. Flatpackhamster

      Re: 3 Screens?

      But only the green one is connected.

    5. eswan

      Re: 3 Screens?

      Does it come with a cloud?

      http://www.theverge.com/2012/6/22/3109846/three-screens-and-a-cloud-windows-8-windows-phone-8-xbox

    6. Tom 13

      Re: 3 Screens?

      No, no. The bit green one is labeled "Launch" so it can easily be misread as "Lunch". Everybody knows this. It's the key point to the Gilligan in Space pilot.

  11. Potemkine Silver badge

    Probability having all this cancelled before the first flight?

    more or less than 50%?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Probability having all this cancelled before the first flight?

      They've got enough old Shuttle engines to do about 4 flights,

      Which (if one were deeply cynical) could be the point at which Congress (because neither NASA senior management or the President wanted this) could say "Mission Accomplished" and find some other way channeling the wonga to the "right" people.

      1. cray74

        Re: Probability having all this cancelled before the first flight?

        They've got enough old Shuttle engines to do about 4 flights,

        They are also restarting production of the derivative RS-25E, "E" for "expendable," which seems to be missing the point of the reusable (refurbishable?) RS-25.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Probability having all this cancelled before the first flight?

          "They are also restarting production of the derivative RS-25E, "E" for "expendable," which seems to be missing the point of the reusable (refurbishable?) RS-25."

          True. But as the SLS is an ELV you need new engines for each launch.

          But the developers promise it will be much cheaper than the original. because it will be much simpler.

          In many ways the SSME was the jewel in the crown of the Shuttle programme. It took heroic efforts to get it working and its performance (tested down to 15% & up to 109%) from SL to orbit is impressive. It was only about 2 secs short of its Isp target (which for a first effort is pretty good).

          The SSME would make quite a good building block for anyone looking to build a largish RLV, given it's now well qualified performance chart.

          But sadly that's not what they are going to do with it.

  12. Sporkinum

    The big ones are the height of a Saturn 5 as well. Will be quite a site to see when they launch.

  13. Tim 49

    Bleedin' Dangerous

    Just finished Mike Mullane's "Riding Rockets" about his jaunts in the Shuttle, and it's jolly unsafe, this space malarkey. At least Apollo had launch-escape systems, but for phases of the Shuttle launch, you were stuffed. Mullane states that the "Contingency Abort" checklist, to cover 'landing' in the Atlantic was there to "give you something to read while you died". If you got beyond that gate, the next was a landing in Africa or Spain, seventeen minutes after lift off, although they didn't carry their passports.

    I never realised that you could get woken up by cosmic rays hitting the optic nerve, & appearing as a bright flash.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Bleedin' Dangerous

      Do you have any escape system on commercial airplanes when you're flying? In case of most failures, especially if you're over an ocean or polar route, you're probably dead.

      Luckily, the Apollo escape system, was never used in a real catastrophic situation.

      1. Tim 49

        Re: Bleedin' Dangerous

        Commercial aircraft are squillions of times safer, and the degree of volunteeriness required to ride in them is different. It's not a fair comparison.

  14. Mike 16 Silver badge

    Could the Orion capsule

    be mated to the Orion launch vehicle?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Orion_%28nuclear_propulsion%29

    Just asking...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Could the Orion capsule

      Maybe the launch rocket should be code-named "The Sword" and the re-entry system "The Shield".

  15. PJD

    Metric yet?

    They also still don't seem to have upgraded to metric (look at the max loadings painted on the floor).

  16. John Crisp

    Just

    get on with it.

    After the beellions the US guvinment & others spent propping up banks, what is a few more ?

    Be more interesting than watching wankers... errrr bankers bleating on that it wasn't their fault they gambled on dodgy bets in the hope of getting a bigger house in the Caymans and that obviously they are the best qualified to sort out the mess.... cunning stunts by them for sure.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=j2AvU2cfXRk

    I watched Neil do the Fandango live. I want to sit and shed another tear that humanity can rise above the shite and do something truly remarkable.

    Looking up to the heavens is the only thing that separates us from the rest of the animals on Planet Earth.

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Let's hope the three screens are better in rockets than the one screen in the center dash of a modern car has proved in my locale. I have to dig one screen-equipped car out of my front lawn about every two years. I don't want to be dodging incoming spaceships too.

    For the record: there are good reasons why actual switches are a good idea in a car. I dare say the same holds true for rockets.

  19. TeeCee Gold badge

    Glass cockpit spacecraft.

    Shades of Scaled Composites and the Spaceship One / White Knight.

    They went for a screen based and entirely "soft" control system (and managed with just the one screen too). This makes development of the cockpit a rather simpler proposition, as changes to the instrumentation do not require changes to the cockpit.

    They went the extra mile by using the same system as a simulator, for the plane and the spaceship and the units can even be swapped between roles. The benefits here are very obvious.

  20. peterkin

    But does it run Crysis?

  21. Unicornpiss Silver badge
    Meh

    I hope Microsoft doesn't have a hand in it...

    I can picture astronauts staring in disbelief after the engines cut out and all 3 screens just say: "Something went wrong."

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