Sunday, April 10, 2011

LEO on the cheap

This is a pdf file I am reading right now. It says that launch costs do not have to be as high as they are. This is a 1993 paper, so one wonders why nothing was done about it. But given the fact that the government doesn't really intend to make anything cheaper, then it becomes understandable.

Note:  I'll be updating this as I go along.  I'm just getting started.

Also:  here is the title page, which I hope will reassure readers that the author of this pdf is no amateur.


Update:   12:50pm

I have to mention that I begin reading this with a bias.  I suspect that there is a lot of waste in the government, that the government does not want to economize; but the opposite, and that lower costs are not only possible, but necessary if space travel is to ever become economically feasible.

Update: 12: 55pm

Just finished first chapter.  It is mostly about what, as opposed to how.  Still looking for how to lower costs.

Update: 1:07 pm
Survey of existing launch systems.  Next chapter, new systems ( from viewpoint of 1993)

Update:  1:24pm
Space plane is discussed.  Of course, it never became a commercial vehicle, or much more than an experimental vehicle.  Also, a modernized version of the Sea Dragon is discussed called SEALAR.  It wasn't the Big Dumb Rocket idea, though.  Actually, it was to be a small rocket.  It got dropped by the Navy just before it could do a launch.  Another idea that was discussed was the Taurus, which is still being developed, evidently.  I have heard of it, but it doesn't appear to have been a big success.  Three chapters in, doesn't look like there's anything here yet.

Update: 1:29
Will stop here for a little while.  Be back later.

Update; 1:57 pm

It is getting more into the why of the high costs of launch.  It confirms my suspicion that the US Government doesn't build these things for cost effectiveness.  You couldn't have possibly designed a worse spacecraft for the purposes of economy than the Space Shuttle.  It's is what I thought.  No intention exists to economize.

Update: 2:26 pm

It is getting a bit thick here in the analysis dept. Basically what you need is a simple launch system.  Also, you need to avoid re inventing the wheel.  Launching high value cargo should go into one type of vehicle and low value cargo in another. (that's my opinion)  I'm going to take a break here and resume later.

Update 3:45
I found a passage that is worth quoting, but not now.  Basically, NASA has a bias against producing cheaper technology.  The bias is opposite.  That bias also extends to our culture.  This makes sense to me.  It can be summed up in the phrase, "you get what you pay for".  The fallacy here is that if it is expensive, it must be better.  But if it is too expensive, it isn't going to do anybody any good.

Update 4:45

I've seen enough to reach a conclusion.  The culture has to change.  More expensive does not equal better results.  In fact, it may well be the thing that holds us back.  Rockets are simple, but are made more complex, and more expensive than they have to be.  The solution here may well be a big, dumb rocket to transport consumables, fuel, and low value freight.  The more expensive freight and crew should be on more complex machines that are designed for safety.  You can lose cheap cargo, but not crew, nor expensive machines.

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