Friday, July 08, 2011

"The End Of The Manned Space Program In The U. S."

You say it's over? America's all done with flyin' in space unless we hire a Russian cab?*

Geez, don't tell the people at Blue Origin (btw, they're hiring); don't tell Bigelow Aerospace (btw, they're hiring) and whatever you do, don't mention it around SpaceX, the guys hired to deliver freight to ISS and working on their own manned vehicle. (Btw, they're hiring, too).

'Cos they'll fall over laughing at you. As will the good people at The Spaceship Company (hiring) and their prime client, Virgin Galactic. (Hiring, though the bar is very high indeed.)

And they are just the frontrunners of a very long list.

The show ain't over, folks. It's barely begun.
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* Mind you, they're very good cabdrivers and as long as you're not too tall, it's a good ride. They've got more flight time on their booster and the basic capsule than anyone. But the fare is a bit high.

13 comments:

RobertM said...

Pretty much my thoughts on the matter.

Justin Buist said...

Ayup. My thoughts too. I bet we'll see some pretty exciting stuff in the next 20 years.

Keads said...

I truly hope so!

Joseph said...

Here's hoping...at least there will be some place for a few of the space program people to go.

Robin said...

They are all "working" on a manned vehicle. They ain't got one yet.

DaddyBear said...

I've always wondered why no-one licenses the Soyuz from the Russians and just mates it up to one of our lift rockets. Seems to me that the "get people into Low Earth Orbit" problem was solved satisfactorily about the same time I was born.

DirtCrashr said...

I'd just as soon hire an Indian cabbie - a Sikh with a steam-punk rocket to fly me from Sriharikota Island up into space. They did invent the zero and trigonometry...

Roberta X said...

A) The Indians are very much in the race!

B)1. Russia has been pretty good about licensing Soyuz capsule tech

2. Why use your own? The Vostok-derived Soyuz boosters have racked up an impressive record and have plenty of power. I don't know if Proton is man-rated -- it burns N2O4/UDMH, which is to say a very powerful base and nerve gas. It's easier to handle and store than the cyrogenis fuels but a little dab'll do ya -- do ya in, that is.
Soyuz burns LOX and kerosene in all but the last stage). However, good as they are, they are all very skill-dependent. India's launched a few but the cautious money hires an experienced Russian crew (as SeaLaunch did for their Protons) for the job.

The Russians plan to launch cargo and satellite-carrying versions of Soyuz from ESA's Guiana Space Centre, too. Why no manned flights? I don't know. Maybe they want to get a string of successes in before even thinking about it.

As far as I know, neither NASA or any US-based company has a man-rated booster that'll put people in orbit. Elon Musk of SpaceX is working on that. (As are others but he's in the lead: every paid grocery run to ISS will also be a proving flight towards puttin' Spam in that can).

C) With all respect to "Indian cabbies" (I have no doubt India will be a space-faring nation and sooner than most people think), right now their designs are having teething problems. They've bought some more R-7 descendents to use while they fix their boosters.

D) Robin, SpaceX flies the same capsule for people and cargo; Scaled Composites/The Spaceship Company has already put men in space.

Roberta X said...

CORRECTION! SeaLaunch used/uses Zenit boosters, which burn kerosene and liquid oxygen. My mistake.

quizikle said...

It's time for the Gov to get (mostly) out of LEO biz, but one would think they'd keep some capability around. Commercial entities have taken over aircraft and electronics to name two government-inspired industries, but the Gov didn't completely drop out of either the way they have manned launch capability.

If things truly fall apart, the US can't launch people into orbit...unless someone gets smart and decides to keep Atlantis operational. I believe the other shuttles are already non-functional and while the commercial companies are busy, I don't think they're there yet. (of course mucked-up vortex-generation machinery has a way of inspiring progress)

Sometimes it's real handy to depend on on-site fingers and opposable thumbs to fix something rather than hope the remote software designers thought of whatever it is that needs fixin'

But who knows that the public knows what's really happening behind the scenes...
Q

quizikle said...

PS: But it's still a sad day that NASA/America "gave up" on manned space flight - at least publicly
Q

Robin said...

Roberta X, I have great admiration for Scaled Composites. But suborbital is still suborbital. The private efforts are years from manned orbital flights. I also doubt NASA's ability not to muck up our domestic private spaceflight companies.

Roberta X said...

SpaceX expects to be ready to fly humans to ISS by 2013. If -- and yes, it's still an if -- they can run freight to the thing, they'll be able to run people. Their launch/reentry profile to/from ISS is not too different to the test they've already run and none of it would have baked or squished a person.

Bezos (Blue Origin) has been very quiet of late, after some successful scale tests. I would not be surprised if the next thing out of the hangar in West Texas has a cockpit. If so, we won't hear about it until afterwards.

I will be surprised if we don't see some kind of wild card pop up within the next year, too, some nation or group or whatever that's keeping very quiet until they've got working hardware. Hey, it worked for the USSR....