Kistling a Different Tune: Commercial Space in an Alternate Key

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by e of pi, Jun 2, 2018.

  1. TimothyC Well-Known Member

    Feb 18, 2014
    I mean the XV is very close to fitting inside the EPM, as seen on this diagram first posted on ARN's STAGE 2:


    That's an XV crew vehicle superimposed over the EPM with both vehicles scaled the same. The OMS engines on Gary Hudson's vehicle are a little problematic, but not much.
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  2. Polish Eagle AntiFa Supersoldier

    Apr 11, 2009
    Where the skies are so blue
    Richard Branson awakens in a cold sweat

    Nice updates! Good to see K-1 up.
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  3. RanulfC Well-Known Member

    Mar 11, 2014
    Interesting and now clear MY drawings are not, as they say, actually to scale ;) Which just goes to prove the saying "measure twice, cut-and-paste once" :D
    (I'm downloading that BTW :) )

    Now, given the nature and mission of the OV, (docking with the ISS) you could pretty much leave off the entire propulsion section in this case but in effect simply installing a bit larger, (diameter) XV and call it good. Wow this has more possibilities than I'd thought. So then the question is does the OV main propulsion have the capacity to do a zero/zero escape burn if need be? On the other hand given the 'relationship' between Kistler and NASA I doubt they'd openly push one of NASA's "pet peeves" but frankly no one else was too bothered by the obvious implications of being able to deliver 'astronauts' to orbit commercially.

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  4. TimothyC Well-Known Member

    Feb 18, 2014
    After some digging, it's not 40 flights, or even 20 flights. It's 14 flights of a single vehicle configuration. If Kistler isn't changing things around to the degree that SpaceX does, and if they could pick up a handful of commercial payloads, then they could have the flights done by mid to late 2012, and all of the paperwork could be done by mid 2013.

    For SpaceX after AMOS-6, the first run of 14 flights of a single configuration ended with the Iridium Next-4 flight on a Full Thrust in December of 2017.

    No problem. I think it shows the total lack of volume on the Gary Hudson design more than anything else. The other thing is the fact that the flare on the end of the XV is only 120 inches in diameter - the same diameter as the Titan IIs he was proposing as the LV.

    Now, that is an interesting idea. To be honest, it really sounds a lot like the plans to use a pressurized volume as a crew vehicle. The downside for the K-1 is one of deliverable payload. The AJ26-60 on the OV really doesn't have the TWR to get away from an exploding LAP at low altitudes, and to add abort motors would eat into a lot of the payload for the K-1. That said RpK was looking at about a year to a year and a half between the first flight of the cargo K-1 module and the crew K-1 module in early 2007, which if approved in early 2010 could result in a crewed flight gap of months if NASA wanted to go that route.
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  5. RanulfC Well-Known Member

    Mar 11, 2014
    Actually it may not be too bad. You can mount the abort motors on the outside, (either a tower or maybe around the skirt) which would lose the mounts mass in payload but you can jettison the abort system short of staging that way and save the weight. (I seem to recall some abort systems actually were ejected after staging which may mean you can mount them in the skirt but it would have to be traded I'd think)

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  6. IncongruousGoat Armchair Rocket Scientist

    May 27, 2018
    Upstate NY
    Yeah, you're right. My bad on that one. My brain got a bit stuck on how long it took SpaceX to get certified.
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  7. Threadmarks: December 22, 2009--K-1 Risk Reduction Demo OV Operations and Descent

    e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

    Nov 27, 2008
    Halfway to Anywhere
    If Motorola PowerPC chips could be bored, the K-1’s avionics would be. For more than half a day, there had been little to do but let the phasing burn’s result progressively shift the landing site over Woomera. However, finally, the moments for return were approaching. The control system was busily measuring position and orbital drift, calculating the possibilities for an OMS-4 burn to clean up phasing for the final three orbits. As it stood, the estimated burns were low enough that the stage was planning to skip the burn entirely. That meant little really to do, but considering the question kept the avionics busy as it streaked over the west coast of the United States. Ahead, the horizon was aglow--the first indications of the brilliant spectacle of an orbital sunrise. For a human pilot, it might have been a distraction, even on the ninth viewing. For the K-1 OV, though, the sight of the sun breaking over the horizon as a glowing ball and striking the blue blanket of the atmosphere aglow was more notable for the sudden uptick in the temperatures being monitored by various temperature gauges placed aboard the OV, part of the collection of dozens of sensors gathering data about the cruise flight as a part of the data collection for NASA’s certification of the mission--step one not only of the K-1 being qualified for COTS flights to the space station, but for the K-1 as a whole to be certified for NASA’s most critical missions. As the light caught the stage, flooding past the opened hatch and into the payload module to white out the forward facing camera for a moment of glare, the K-1 continued to slide along its orbital track, sliding north and east above the western United States. Compared to the challenges of flying ascent and the upcoming problems of aerodynamic flight, this was a breeze.

    Five hundred kilometers below, Jean-Pierre squinted into the twilight west of his house. Looking down, he compared the time on his watch and the sky to a printout from the office, then looked up again. He held a hand up, blocking off the edge of the light from his neighbor’s christmas display, which had just come on with its timer. He frowned at the stars, checking. “Not moving, not moving, that’s too bright--gotta be a plane.” He checked his watch again, while the terminator swept across orbit hundreds up miles up and the sky slowly bled from black to navy blue in the east. 6:35 AM, 6:36 AM...he frowned at the sheet, and the circled handwritten note he’d added before turning in the night before. “0635 to 0637, +2” He took a last look, trying to reposition his hand and block out the blinking lights on his neighbor’s elm. Above, a new star appeared midway across the sky, dim and flickering as it traced an arc eastward. Jean-Pierre’s mouth opened into a stupid grin for a moment, then he fumbled for the binoculars sitting on the rail of his deck. He put them to his face, and there it was--definitely not a plane, definitely not a star. The K-1 OV swept across the sky for a few long moments, before he lost it behind the roof of his other neighbor’s house. Jean-Pierre’s grin could have fought the coming sunrise as he went back inside to grab a cup of coffee from the grumbling coffeemaker, then head in for the call to stations at headquarters. The OV had five more orbits to go, and his team needed to be ready to take over from the overnight team--starting with the flight director. That meant he needed to grab the coffee and get into the office in a hurry to get the updates from Woomera while his team got ready.

    Hours later, Jean-Pierre was back at his console, talking over the controller loop with the operations manager at Woomera about the first look over the LAP after they found it the night before and got it lifted and brought back to the hangar. The images taken by the retrieval team looked, on first glance, like a crash site--the airbags covered in dust, with a fine dusting on the base of the stage, the parachutes draped away and flapping gently in the wind. Access panels gaped open, showing the inside of the vehicle’s interstage and engine compartment. The looks were deceptive, though--the panels had been pulled away by the ground crew to confirm safing the stage, remove the airbags and parachute risers, retrieve the onboard storage media for the telemetry and cameras, and expose the lifting points for the straddle truck. Under the bright lights of the hangar in a second set of pictures taken a few hours later--and a few hours ago--the LAP already looked better. With the landing systems removed and the stage set back on its servicing stand, it already looked nearly ready to fly again. Just close up the panels, and it would look exactly like it had before the stack was integrated a few weeks ago. That, too was deceptive, but the harder and more detailed work of making sure the LAP would be ready to fly again would have to be put aside until the OV was back on the ground. The most important thing Woomera had said this morning was that once the LAP had been set back on its cradle, the straddle truck had been topped off with fuel and the rigging checked--it was ready to go again. Jean-Pierre checked the list of event timers up on the main display--Rev 13 in progress, tracking over the pacific orbit. They’d been on-target enough to be able to forgo their fourth OMS burn, with minimal corrections needed for the phasing. Another half orbit to the OMS-5 retro, and another hour past that until they were on the ground. It’d been a busy but relaxed day, rewarding after the pressure of launch day, but the team’s energy could be felt in the room as they waited for entry.

    On orbit, the K-1 was still master of its own fate. Though it reported every moment of telemetry to the ground, its onboard systems had control of the vehicle, as they had from the moment it had left the pad. Now, it would get its final exam results as it faced the trials of entry, descent, and landing. It was far from the first vehicle to face the task, starting with Vostok and Mercury, but it was one of the stranger ones in role and shape--something new to be proved. The OV carefully aligned itself using the ACS thrusters, preparing for the moment when it fired its engines for descent. Unlike previous burns, this one saw both OMS engines ignite at the same time--while there was a contingency to burn the other engine longer should one fail to light, there was minimal time margin to do so by firing the engines sequentially. As the burn completed, the careful calculations on previous burns paid their dividends--the remaining OMS propellant was precisely within landing margins. The next perigee would bring the OV skimming into the denser portions of the atmosphere and right on course for Woomera.

    The OV’s task quickly went from killing the coast time to finding time for all the required calculations as the final half-orbit quickly ticked away. The heat shield hatch had already been closed and verified locked before the retro burn, but the attitude had to be adjusted to be nose-forward again, pitched 11 degrees for a lifting entry. The ACS jets got their workout holding the vehicle stable in that attitude as the atmosphere began to wash over the vehicle, air molecules bouncing off like billiard balls in the rarefied air, then accumulated into conventional flows. The vehicle rocked and shook under the flow, the bangs of the ACS becoming nearly constant as it fought to hold a stable course. The heat built up, the SIRCA tiles on the nose and aft flare shedding energy away from the vehicle as the outer surface temperatures climbed above 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. The peak moment of heating came and went as the ACS fought for control of the lifting entry, noted with raised voices in the control rooms in Woomera and Oklahoma City, but only in a relaxation of flight limits for the avionics as they steered the OV down. The Shuttle was long claimed to be like flying a brick, but the K-1 OV was an even worse flyer--the OV had a lift to drag ratio of just 0.15. Shuttle’s performance was 8 times higher, and even the Apollo Command Module with its 0.368 looked like a fighter jet’s performance by comparison. It made the task of the avionics even more critical--the vehicle was flying a slow banked roll, using lift and drag to adjust its downrange distance and cross-range travel, waiting for the right moment to reverse the bank. Until that moment, the OV would have more options, but once committed, the ability to adjust from a bad landing estimate would drop dramatically. It would have some residual maneuverability, but it would likely land off-target. For the first time since launch, the OV needed input from the ground--the local wind conditions above Woomera, taken from a series of weather balloons, which would help it calculate its drift under parachutes, to put itself in the right place before their deployment.

    Not yet. Wait for it. Wait for! The OV rolled hard, 2.5 degrees per second per second of roll acceleration reaching the rate limit of 10 degrees per second in 4 seconds. The full swing from 60 degrees positive bank to 60 degrees negative bank took roughly twelve seconds, but as the attitude stabilized and the OV uplinked the new course to TDRS, a human pilot might have nodded in satisfaction. The new final bank course was right down the middle of the nominal Woomera approach. The worst of the velocity had already been bled off--thirty seconds after bank reversal, the stage was traveling at only Mach 2.5 now, just 10% of its entry velocity of Mach 23. The thickening atmosphere made for increasing trouble for the ACS control authority, so the first stage of the OV’s parachute deployment was the firing of a 23 foot diameter hemisflo stabilizer parachute, which would help hold the stage on course. The stage was still more than 17 kilometers out and traveling nearly horizontally at 23 kilometers altitude, but the stabilizer drogue quickly ate away at the airspeed. From 80,000 ft, the stage rode down gravity’s rainbow like a lawn dart into the Woomera desert, aiming for a landing area just 1.8 kilometers in diameter. The avionics ticked off three minutes, one 1 Hz guidance update at a time, before the altitude, position, and velocity crossed the threshold for the drogues. By then, the stage was already subsonic, moving at barely 140 m/s and beginning a sharply angled descent from just over 8 kilometers above the landing site. The descent began to slow dramatically--it would now take 12 minutes to fall the remaining height. At 15,000 ft, the stage cut loose the drogues and kicked out the mains, with a velocity of just 60 m/s, which quickly slowed to barely 6 m/s. The velocity was now once again more horizontal than vertically as the wind carried the stage. Like the LAP, the OV deployed its four landing airbags, then lowered itself on the parachute risers into a side-on position. A puff of dust in the desert marked its touchdown point. As Woomera checked GPS and verified with the onboard telemetry, the landing site analysis checked out. The stage was intact and healthy, 900 meters north east of the center of the landing target--just barely inside the edge of the cleared circle. A hard set of gusts had blown in during atmospheric entry after the wind update had been uplinked, carrying the stage an extra few hundred meters downrange after the mains had already been deployed. Still, even with the issue, the stage had made it into the targeted area, if barely, and it was intact. Jean-Pierre and the staff at Oklahoma City erupted into cheers or sighs of relief as the Woomera team leapt into action to recover the second vehicle in two days. The K-1 had done its job: go to space, and return safely to the ground. The only question was the one it shared with the Space Shuttle before it: how long before it could fly again, and could it achieve what its potential customer payloads required? Jean-Pierre’s team had done their job, but that answer would have to come from the team in Woomera, and the marketing and contract team up in the executive suites in Oklahoma City.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2019
  8. Threadmarks: December 24, 2009--Year End RpK Wrap Up--OrbComm Win and 2010 Look-Ahead

    e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

    Nov 27, 2008
    Halfway to Anywhere
    “A Happy Holiday and an Exciting New Year”: Rocketplane Kistler Management Reflects on Exciting Year
    --by Arnold Holmes (American Rocket News, December 24, 2009
    Rocketplane Kistler Vice President of Business Development and Strategic Planning, Debra Facktor Lepore, was ebullient in an exclusive interview this week with American Rocket News reporter Arnold Holmes, reflecting on the company’s achievements of 2009 and looking forward to the successes of 2010, as well as her personal return to the company.

    “It’s been, I’d say, a year of fulfilling promises,” Lepore said. “When I joined [Kistler Aerospace] in 1997, we were talking about the promise of the K-1 vehicle, the first flight use of the NK-33 engines, flying for NASA and communications satellite customers, and full and rapid reuse of a second generation vehicle.” She laughed and continued. “Well, it’s taken us a bit longer than promised, but it’s really my pleasure to be back with Rocketplane Kistler now to see all that happen for us, not to mention so much more we’re excited about this year and in months and years to come. Being in the control room in Oklahoma City with the whole team gathered around after a decade...that was an incredible launch to watch.”

    Indeed, though the past year has seen the company take major strides forward in all of its diverse areas of focus, the K-1 launcher has undoubtedly been the marque representative of their successes in 2009. After more than a decade of often troublesome development, the K-1 rocket finally saw its first flight vehicle delivered to RpK’s newly-commissioned launch site in Woomera, Australia this fall, and the Aerojet 26 engines carried it to space on December 21st, just days ago--and more importantly, its parachutes have carried it back. Still, though the mission was exciting, Lepore said she had little worry of failure.

    “We’ve always thought of the key element of the K-1 as its conservative design,” she said. “We had an engine that was proven, if unflown, and we worked to build the best vehicle we could for the mission around that with the widest of margins. That’s required by the approach of reuse--you can’t get too aggressive if you want to be able to fully, rapidly, and consistently reuse and recover the vehicle, no matter what happens. The system has to be robust, both in its design and in how it reacts to issues,” Lepore commented on the launch. She laughed and added,“Really, that’s the philosophy of both our orbital and suborbital programs. We want the excitement of a launch, but with a vehicle that’s reliable enough and proven enough by repeated flights, that there’s no concern at all when a customer hands us their ticket for a Rocketplane flight or books a launch to orbit aboard the K-1.”

    Customers seem to agree. NASA has already begun in-depth evaluation of the data recorded during the maiden flight to begin certifying the vehicle for operational flights to the International Space Station under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract next year, and RpK just yesterday announced that they have won their first commercial launch contract for the K-1, to fly eighteen OG-2 satellites for communications provider OrbComm aboard the K-1 vehicle in 2013 and 2014.

    “It was a natural fit and we’re pleased to welcome OrbComm aboard,” Lepore said about the contract. “This is the mission the K-1 was built for: launching small communications satellites to low Earth orbit. We were able to offer OrbComm an attractive price given the system we’re using, and we anticipate we’ll be able to do the same for other customers as we prove our vehicle over the next year. That begins with going to station in the coming months with our remaining NASA demonstrations, but our plans definitely do not end there.”

    Testing of the K-1 for orbital deliveries will continue in the coming months. RpK and NASA have scheduled the first of their COTS demonstrations for March, according to Flight Planning Integration Panel (FPIP) charts available on AmericanRocketNews Stage Two. While the Risk Reduction demonstration was flown with the Expandable Payload Module aboard the Orbital Vehicle, the COTS Demo 1 and Demo 2 missions will demonstrate the two payload modules which will be used for space station logistics support. In February, the K-1 is scheduled to fly COTS Demo 1, the K-1’s first flight to the space station. The COTS Demo 1 flight will feature the Pressurized Cargo Module, which features a Common Berthing Mechanism behind the nose heat shield, allowing access to a pressurized volume inside the module, as well as additional attitude control thrusters to give the Orbital Vehicle full translational control for berthing support. Should the COTS Demo 1 mission be successful, the COTS Demo 2 flight is currently scheduled to fly with the Unpressurized Cargo Module in May to demonstrate the ability to continue launching--and returning--external cargo from station. While like the PCM the UCM features a CBM hatch behind the nose heat shield and carries additional thrusters, the cargo is instead placed in a payload bay behind the forward bulkhead which is accessed through a clamshell door on the spacecraft’s dorsal surface.

    “Both RpK and the ISS program leadership are very excited about what the K-1 can offer station,” Lepore said. “Next year, we’ll be demonstrating the ability to launch all the kinds of small payloads which until now have been carried by the Space Shuttle, from external experiments like Express Logistics racks and critical operational equipment like Alpha Rotary Joints to crew support systems and full payload racks. We look forward to working with NASA on utilizing that capability, and they’re excited both by the potential we offer in terms of flight rate and in terms of cost per mission.”

    The price and frequency of the K-1’s flights will be a critical factor being observed by spaceflight industry insiders and fans alike. The K-1 is designed to be flown as often as every nine days and maintains a list price of $19 million for customer launches. However, Kistler and NASA have indicated initially they intend to operate substantially less frequently while they observe the vehicle’s initial performance and maintenance requirements, and the precise cost of payload being offered under the COTS contract remains closely held. It remains to be seen how the vehicle will compare with their competition, the Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Dragon capsule, flying aboard their Falcon 9 rocket in the new year. Elon Musk’s new rocket is in advanced stages of testing, and offers substantially more performance for customers at prices approaching Kistler’s base price. Station logistics may be a key differentiator for RpK, as the payload of the Dragon capsule to the space station is actually lower than the K-1 OV’s capability despite the higher performance and cost-per-flight of Falcon 9, nor can their capsule carry International Standard Payload Racks [ISPRs] as the K-1 PCM can. When asked if she had any comments on their performance relative to their competition in orbital launch or suborbital tourism, Lepore demurred.

    “We don’t really see SpaceX as a competitor, nor Virgin Galactic. We’re all allies in the same challenge, to see space access revolutionized in cost effectiveness. That’s what allows space to be a part of everyone’s life and the legacy of all humanity--whether it’s Elon’s team or ours that reduces the cost of access to orbit is less important than that we do it. The same attitude exists on the suborbital side of the house--we think Rocketplane will be a good ship and we look forward to seeing it fly, but we’re taking our time to get it right and we look forward to the future for suborbital flight of passengers and experiments whether aboard our vehicle or Virgin’s. We’re confident that we have good solutions, so we’re not really worried about who flies first.”

    Rocketplane Kistler’s strategy of not focusing on the competition appears to be working for their orbital business--the K-1 has already beaten Falcon 9 to flight, and may beat it to station. Additionally, while SpaceX’s Elon Musk has spoken in the past about his desire to see Falcon transformed into a fully reusable vehicle, the K-1 is already intending to fly its next mission with almost the same hardware with which they flew their first mission. However, while they lead in the orbital field, RpK may be trailing in the suborbital realm--Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has already test-flown their WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft, and they have rolled out their first SpaceShipTwo vehicle to begin test flights this year. By contrast, Rocketplane has yet to complete assembly of their first Rocketplane XP airframe, and may not be ready to begin flights until late in the year. Whoever flies first, it should be an exciting year for the company. For those following Rocketplane Kistler’s activities, Leope says there is much to look forward to.

    “It was a very busy 2009 for us, but if anything it’s going to be a busier 2010,” Lepore said. “On the execution side, we have to begin to deliver on COTS, complete our first reuse and transition the K-1 to routine operations, we plan to begin assembly on the second flight set of LAP and OV, and we’re looking forward to rolling out the Rocketplane XP this spring. But we also always have to be looking forward to the future beyond 2010 and how 2010 works to get us there. In the strategic planning realm, we have several major commercial contracts for both sides of the company we’re working on that are very exciting opportunities, and we’re also starting to look at where our vehicle development goes as we transition our current development projects into operations.”

    Asked if she can provide any hints on that front, Lepore offered and enigmatic smile and said we’ll just have to see where things go in the coming year, in a statement that summed up much of her thoughts:

    “I’m afraid all I can say is this: watch us fly and stay tuned for bigger things.”


    Author’s Note: I found out about Debra Facktor Lepore in the course of listening to old Space Show episodes while researching this timeline--if you’d like to hear any real interviews with her, I’d recommend her appearances on that show. IOTL, she never returned to Kistler after leaving to go run AirLaunch with Gary Hudson, and now is a Vice President at Ball Aerospace and their General Manager for Strategic Operations & Commercial Aerospace. However, she still to this day talks about the value of public-private partnerships like the Kistler SLI and RpK COTS which she had some hand in arranging, and given her early role with the company I think it’s possible she could be lured back to help see the vehicle fly and shape the future strategy.
  9. Usili Carry On Wayward Son

    Aug 9, 2012
    There's something always amusing about the acronym of 'LAP' for the booster. It just always make me picture this as something becoming a phrase for Kistler, "Running LAP's against our competition" or "Taking a LAP around expendables."
  10. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

    Jul 28, 2010
    AFAIK, when redesigning the NK-15/15V into the NK-33/43, Kuznetsov had determined that the best way to assure them in the expendable N-1 was to Design, Build, & Test the Engines as Reusable Units. If that's true, it would explain (at least in part) why they're viable in the Kristler K-1 whose design would I believe, demand exactly that. One advantage of using something that already exists, it being a known quality.

    Question is, given how long they've been warehoused, both OTL & TTL, how long can they last?

    This leads me to suspect that if there's any K-1 RUDs down the line, I'd be looking there.
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  11. IncongruousGoat Armchair Rocket Scientist

    May 27, 2018
    Upstate NY
    This has come up a few times, since the engine that caused that one Antares failure OTL was one of those warehoused, refurbished NK-33s. e of pi has apparently already rolled the dice and determined when, if ever, one of those engines will explode.
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  12. TimothyC Well-Known Member

    Feb 18, 2014
    Congratulations @e of pi on the nomination (and double seconding) for a Turtledove, and congrats to Kistler on getting their first commercial contract in the form of the Orbcomm OG2 payloads.
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  13. TimothyC Well-Known Member

    Feb 18, 2014
    I love how she subtlety states that they don't have the second vehicle built yet, and that funds that otherwise would have gone to building the K-1 have gone for the plane. I personally enjoy reading little bits like this, and wouldn't mind if we just got a series of ARN news articles.
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  14. Threadmarks: January 2010: Woomera Turnaround &COTS Demo 1 Preparations

    e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

    Nov 27, 2008
    Halfway to Anywhere
    An observer of Rocketplane Kistler over January 2010 might have mused on the truth that in engineering, it’s often the large, visible things that go the fastest and the small details which go the slowest. The K-1 Risk Reduction Demonstration mission had been flown and both stages returned to Woomera within 25 hours. By the time RpK stood down for the holidays 48 hours after launch, both stages were back in the “barn” at Woomera. Stages which had lain half-completed on assembly stands in Michoud for a decade would have to endure the weeks of holiday vacation as their acolytes took their well-earned rest before they could begin to be made ready to fly once more. The pace of activity picked up as technicians and engineers returned from vacations, but even so it was the large visible progress which went quickly. The LAP had already been lifted by the overhead cranes onto a dolly and moved into its multi-level inspection and checkout stand, but the preparations for holiday vacations had seen the minimum of work on the OV. Little more had happened other than pulling the OV into the building, lowering it from the straddle truck onto its dolly, and then shutting the lights off and locking the hangar doors behind the crew. While most of the crew stood down to the work of drinking in celebration, visiting family, and engaging in feasting and good cheer, a skeleton crew of mostly younger and unmarried individuals took on the task of beginning to download and process the telemetry stored on the vehicles during 24 hours of flight.

    Now, two weeks later the hangar bustled once more. The technicians were back, augmented by yet more of the LAP and OV assembly team brought in from Michoud and ATK by special arrangement. The OV and its dolly was pulled by a small forklift near the the garage doors leading from the main integration and checkout area into the payload processing area. With the stages positioned, the crew took more than an hour to work through the detailed task simply listed on the turnaround checklist as “PM Demate and Flip”. All the steps of the process had to be carefully seen to--the dolly’s special forward mounting points brought up to support the payload module separately from the OV, the PM released from the OV’s mating hardware and gently rolled a few critical inches clear, then the overhead crane from the payload processing area brought out into the main hangar to grab the payload module and lift it off the dolly. With the half-ton load of the PM hanging from the crane, the crew gingerly pulled the OV and dolly clear, then gently brought up tension on parts of the rigging to flip the PM flat and lower it away onto a second dolly. With the dolly in place, the PM was rolled into the airlock of the payload clean rooms.

    While the vehicle was broken down in just days to all its major components, the smaller detail work would take days and weeks as hardware forked off in dozens of directions. Every conference room at Woomera was monopolized as a war room for one team or another. The Mission Telemetry Review took over one of the two upstairs conference rooms, while the COTS Demo One Turnaround Planning Team took over the other, one team looking back, the other looking forward. The two payload control rooms on the first floor of the office area were divided between the payload management teams. The Payload Module team were forced to share room 4 for the tasks of post-flight inspecting the Expandable Payload Module and preparing the Pressurized Cargo Module to fly to the space station while Room 5 (slightly closer to the main floor) was taken over as the center for the additional staff inspecting and turning around the OV. The LAP team, augmented for the first turnaround by support staff from Michoud, set up their offices in an area constructed from temporary cubicle walls in an unused corner of the main integration floor, where the workstands not yet needed to help check out LAP 2 and OV 2 had yet to be assembled--indeed, the workstands themselves were still in Michoud, waiting for the integration of LAP 2 and OV 2 to begin.

    Officially, the delay was to help ensure that the maximum number of lessons could be learned from the initial K-1 flights before beginning the second flight set of vehicles. In reality, it had come from a hard allocation of funding between the now-flying K-1--which had all the hardware it needed to support the all-important paying COTS missions--and the yet-to-fly Rocketplane, which still needed every dollar it could get to help usher the AR-36 engine to flight-ready state and prepare the first space frame for air breathing test flights in the summer. In this decision, the Rocketplane management had overridden the continuing members of the Kistler management team and some of the minority shareholders, most notably ATK, in this. The K-1 team leadership felt as if they were being penalized for their success, while ATK for their part was displeased to see money from the COTS contract progress payments and the OrbComm OG-2 contract first down payments being directed not to paying ATK to begin the next set of K-1 vehicles but instead to the Rocketplane which RpK was producing entirely in-house for the much less assured suborbital tourist market.

    In Woomera, the topic brought grumbling, but the team was busy enough that the grumbling was more restrained than the matching discussions in boardrooms in Oklahoma City, Ontario, and Salt Lake City. There wasn’t time for strategy in the integration hangars, only tactics. The Pressurized Payload Module’s arrival to the space station’s Keep-Out Sphere for berthing demonstrations on COTS Demo 1 had a date penciled into the ISS schedule and carefully husbanded, one just three months away. The movement of hardware and the day-to-day flow of staff from vehicle to vehicle consumed hours a day as managers bent over procedure manuals, collected in binders being re-written by the hour, and updated Gantt charts blown up to wall-size and checked off with markers, magnets, and tape. Wiring harnesses were extracted and checked, valves inspected, borescopes peered into ducts and turbopumps, and countless other inspections of hundreds of other systems. While these quick-hit tasks worked their way from end to end of the vehicle, other tasks were more extensive and carried out in parallel like shaking dust out of parachutes and airbags and beginning to re-pack them to be secured once again in their deployment canisters. The pad staff walked down the propellant farms and the transporter and erector were inspected, the fly-away umbilicals replaced from flight and the hold-downs checked to ensure they would function again.

    Once again, however, the most critical tasks were the ones making the slowest visible progress. Half a dozen technicians hired away from the United Space Alliance carried out the same techniques they had learned for the elegant wings of the Space Shuttle in checking the thermal blankets and tiles protecting the barrel-like sides of the stubby OV. Tile by tile, they checked over each inch of her flare and nose shields, the minor damage found photographed and elaborately documented. Over weeks of work, just one blanket and six tiles were actually replaced, more out of an excess of caution and a desire to test procedures than true need. Even as other hardware began to come back together to be readied for flight, the task of inspecting the TPS continued. Day by day, more than fifty engineers and technicians labored, fighting to report the most dull possible success to Oklahoma City: all system processing on track, vehicles preparing for flight and tracking to nominal schedules. All processes continuing to track February 21st vehicle availability as planned, with the margin ahead of the planned March 7th rollout for COTS Demo 1 yet to be used. Hundreds and thousands of man hours, boiled down to a report that they hadn’t failed yet.

    While Kistler labored under the Australian desert heat and RpK management defended their funding allocation decisions, however, even more fiery debates were about to erupt in Washington. February 1, 2010 saw the results of the Obama Administration’s analysis of the Augustine report reach Capital Hill.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2019
  15. IncongruousGoat Armchair Rocket Scientist

    May 27, 2018
    Upstate NY
    Speculation time! All the detail that's been put into this suggest to me that we're going to see some changes here from OTL, so let's work through what those changes could be. It's probably not going to be use of DIRECT, since that's (more or less) what we got OTL, and we all know how well that's been working out. Kistler have demonstrated vehicle recovery, at least, but not yet reuse. Still, this might prompt NASA to look into a reusable Shuttle-derived vehicle, although I don't know how well Kistler's model of reuse would work for an LH2/LOX vehicle. On the other hand, SpaceX have been reusing Falcon 9 cores for a couple years now IOTL, and very few of their competitors are investing in reusability. On the other other hand, Kistler are less NewSpace-y than SpaceX, and so less likely to be looked down upon by OldSpace.

    So basically, maybe (but not probably) reusable DIRECT-ish thing.Unfortunately, I don't think reusability would really help the project move any faster, and if it goes at anything like the rate it has OTL, it won't be flying until 2025 at least (longer timeframe b/c of need to develop reuse).

    Or... maybe... just maybe... NewSpace to the rescue? Kistler's successful launch might be enough impetus for Congress to look to Kistler (or SpaceX, I suppose) for their heavy-lift needs. Which would conveniently provide Kistler with a reason to build a heavy-lift launch vehicle. Hmmm...
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
    e of pi and Dlg123 like this.
  16. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

    Jul 28, 2010
    IOTL what came from the Augustine Report - or more accurately, what was drawn up in response to it by the Administration and Bolden - caused one Hell of a Backlash in Congress, though at the time, there were hardly any NewSpace LVs actually flying - I think Falcon 1 was being retired at about this time.

    Having one that's already proven it can reach LEO, and another getting closer, I think that will have some kind of impact. Just how much given the sheer weight/mass of Entrenched Vested Interests, is still an unknown to me at this moment.

    Where does this put NASA? Well, I can only speculate. One the one hand, the above could well lend more weight to the idea of contracting out their Heavy to Super-Heavy Lift Requirements and free up more funds for what they'd actually carry. On the other, it took until 01/2018 IOTL before the Falcon 9 Heavy flew, and said Vested Interests.

    So, more realistically, I still see something like DIRECT to SLS being forced on NASA, but how it develops ITTL, is wide open.
  17. IncongruousGoat Armchair Rocket Scientist

    May 27, 2018
    Upstate NY
    Yes, but mostly because A: there wasn't much demand, and B: the design for Falcon 9 kept changing, invalidating any work done on FH. It just wasn't high on SpaceX's priority list because, OTL, the market for that kind of lift capability is tiny. Make it a priority (say, via NASA contract for heavy lift vehicle development), and I suspect the situation will change.
    Dlg123 likes this.
  18. TimothyC Well-Known Member

    Feb 18, 2014
    Well, that's the question isn't it. Something to keep in mind - Historically at this point the COTS money was going to SpaceX (no change) and Orbital Sciences (for Cygnus and Taurus II/Antares). Here, the OSC is still doing Pegasus and Taurus launches (good luck getting customers if RpK is going to be able to launch more (absolute) payload for less (absolute) money, but not COTS. Who will be paid when the CRS and OrbComm money comes in are RpK's investors.
    Dlg123 and IncongruousGoat like this.
  19. Threadmarks: February 7, 2010: Budgets and dampened spirits

    e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

    Nov 27, 2008
    Halfway to Anywhere
    An ugly winter drizzle spat fitfully at the lounge window in the dark, catching distant reflections off the lights from the soccer fields at the bottom of the hill as the wind whipped it around. It was overly dramatic for what was, in fact, only a little water, but it was miserable nonetheless. It seemed in keeping with my mood, and had helped dampen the spirits of everyone else enough to force freshmen revelers into their beds unusually early for a Saturday night. By 1 AM, the floor was dark and lonely, lit only by the fire exit signs since the lights had gone down, and my laptop’s glow made for inconsistent shadows in corners of the lounge outside my dorm room door which I’d claimed after hours as my own personal living room. In better weeks, I’d held down a couch with a book for hours between classes, but tonight I’d found myself staring at the drop ceiling above my bed, unable to sleep. An hour after midnight, I’d finally given up and gone out to set up my laptop where it wouldn’t wake my roommate. There was, at least, a launch tonight--even if the Obama budget cancelled everything to do with human spaceflight and what I’d come to hope might be “my” moon shot, it couldn’t cancel this.

    On screen, the NASA tv webstream counted down in glorious 720p HD, Endeavour and the stack for STS-130 was sitting on the pad--in the long shots from the VAB, a lone light in the darkness of a Florida swamp. What might be NASA’s last Space Shuttle night launch was counting down in the early morning hours of February 7, 2010--or, by college reckoning, late night of February 6, since the college day officially rolled over when you slept or ate breakfast, whichever ended up happening first. If I wanted to be any use at all before noon on a Sunday, I needed to be in bed soon. However, it was hard to shut my mind down--the rain felt like a mirror of roiling young adult emotions. The long built-in holds of a Shuttle count as the clock ticked over into the new day gave time for those to settle, and eventually I began to skim once more through the mission documents on AmericanRocketNews’ Stage Two--a present from my father for my birthday the year before. It’d been exciting at the time, but now it was like a lifeline--the details on Cupola and Node 3 the only reminder of promise, that the ISS would still exist whether the moon program lived or died. Eventually, I ended up skimming to the news and policy threads, re-reading the analysis, and then to the dry budgetary documents themselves: hundreds of pages of summaries which still felt on every re-read like the wind of an axe a hair's’ breadth from my post-college dreams of working on rocket hardware. The time ticked past, checking in every few minutes to see what the announcer was saying or why they weren’t saying anything as the holds stretched out. The weather was awful in Florida too, apparently. Like me, Endeavour was looking for its hole in the clouds, and it didn’t find one. Finally, they scrubbed for the night and eventually, an hour later, I managed to find my way to sleep. Tomorrow was another attempt, and maybe it would bring better news and brighter skies.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
  20. Threadmarks: February 8, 2010: Budgets and a fresh perspective

    e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

    Nov 27, 2008
    Halfway to Anywhere
    rwdavidoff[6:11 PM]Good evening.

    truth_is_life[6:12 PM]
    Good evening! How are you doing?

    rwdavidoff[6:12 PM]
    I'm....all right, I guess.
    Tired, and still a bit overwhelmed by everything.
    Couldn't sleep last night, and ended up staying up to 3 AM trying to watch Endeavour launch Before they scrubbed.
    Trying to remind myself we're still doing ISS--Cupola seems really cool.
    I'm just still bummed over the new budget documents.
    I just don't know what to think. Have you read them yet?

    truth_is_life[6:15 PM]
    Some, yeah. Mostly the executive summaries. I thought that they looked kind of interesting, myself.

    rwdavidoff[6:17 PM]
    There's just so much floating around. You've got a lot of people saying it's the end of the world, and I get it. I mean, DIRECT has been saying for years now that Ares V was a bad rocket, and Ares I was worse.
    Augustine agreed. But now there's just...nothing.

    rwdavidoff[6:18 PM]
    But Phil Plait's saying it's not all bad.\

    truth_is_life[6:18 PM]
    It doesn’t really look like nothing to me?

    rwdavidoff[6:18 PM]
    Well, there's no HLV. You can't do the moon with no HLV. That's the thing I keep coming back to.
    I was _really_ looking forward to working on Constellation when I graduate.

    truth_is_life[6:19 PM]
    Are you sure you can’t do the Moon with no HLV? Didn’t the Constellation report talk about how you could do it?

    rwdavidoff[6:19 PM]
    I think I've mentioned a few times my great-Uncle worked on the first moon shot, and I was going to be part of the second.

    truth_is_life[6:19 PM]
    I think it was just to dismiss it, but ISTR that they did construct a scenario for how you could do it...

    rwdavidoff[6:20 PM]
    It's a _lot_ of launches. You need depots, and tugs, and a lot of that. And they're killing Orion too, so there's also no capsule to take you there. Unless you're buying Elon's lines about Dragon being lunar rated.

    truth_is_life[6:21 PM]
    Well, if NASA’s paying for it to be...

    rwdavidoff[6:21 PM]
    I guess, but it's a lot of work to just get back to where we are. We could be doing SDHLV _now_ you know? A lot of this development and science spending is awesome, and I'm really pleased to see that the plan isn't to just splash ISS, seems like we'll be losing a lot of time.
    Depot demonstrations and new engine testing and ISRu demos and all that don't get boots on the surface.

    truth_is_life[6:23 PM]
    Sure, but see what Phil says in that article you linked: “We need to be able to figure out how to get there and be there, and that takes more than just big rockets. We need a good plan, and I’m not really sure what we had up until this point is that plan.”
    What I think of is Antarctica.
    You know, Antarctica’s a really harsh environment that you have to lug everything into from the rest of the world, right?
    Kind of like outer space.

    rwdavidoff[6:24 PM]
    I'd heard, yeah. :)

    truth_is_life[6:25 PM]
    And back in the day it was so expensive and difficult to do anything there that there were only little pinprick visits from time to time.
    Nothing permanent.
    But technology developed and costs fell and eventually it got cheap enough that the United States has hundreds of people in Antarctica all the time, even during winter.
    And loads and loads of countries have their own bases and outposts, even little ones like Argentina and Chile.
    And it’s totally uncontroversial. No one has to beg for money for the Antarctic program.
    So if you can bring the costs down--and this budget is at least _trying_ to do that--then it’s not a matter of the “moon program” any more.
    Besides, it’s not like it’s giving up on exploration altogether, it’s mostly just shifting money to robots.

    rwdavidoff[6:29 PM]
    I think I missed that bit.
    Space Science didn't talk about any new program starts.

    truth_is_life[6:30 PM]
    I mean, if you go look over the budget there are budget increases for most of NASA’s science lines, which are robots.
    ESMD doing precursor missions to the Moon, Mars, and other places like the near-Earth asteroids.
    Bumps to Earth science, planetary science, you name it.
    I mean, okay, you know how I always bring up how the Apollo missions were so much more productive than the Luna missions...
    But if you can’t _get_ Apollo, and that’s what Augustine was saying, then Luna’s better than nothing.

    rwdavidoff[6:32 PM]
    I guess I was just hoping we wouldn't have to choose.
    And it seems like a lot of the space congresspeople are pitching fits.
    Like healthcare wasn't bad enough.
    I am excited about the exploration demonstrations, actually putting ISRU to the test, a depot test, all that.

    truth_is_life[6:43 PM]
    Yeah, though you have to remember that presidents propose, they don’t dispose.
    There was a book about that, let me see...
    Ah! Roger Launius, _Spaceflight and the Myth of Presidential Leadership_!

    rwdavidoff[6:46 PM]
    Looking it up. I'm assuming the title means that he's saying they matter less than people think?

    truth_is_life[6:46 PM]
    Yeah, that’s the gist.
    The thing is that Presidents are powerful but not, ultimately, in charge of the disbursement of resources.
    They also don’t _care_ as much as individual Congresspeople.
    I mean, Alabama wants space dollars more than Obama wants not to give them space dollars, you know?

    rwdavidoff[6:50 PM]
    I suppose.
    I'm not really sure what that's going to mean, though.
    I dunno. I think I'm just going to hope Endeavour gets off all right tonight and I can sleep better, and then we see how it all shakes out.

    truth_is_life[6:52 PM]
    Yeah, that’s probably for the best.
    And hey!
    This budget wants a lot of cool stuff with commercial, right?
    Isn’t it also great to see reuse going places?

    rwdavidoff[6:54 PM]
    It is! I'm looking forward to seeing K-1 refly in a month or so.
    And we'll get to see what all this reuse stuff Elon keeps talking about wanting to do is once they get flying.

    truth_is_life[6:55 PM]
    Yeah, and how about these other companies the budget calls out?
    Blue Origin, Paragon Space?

    rwdavidoff[6:56 PM]
    I don't really know much about them.
    I’ve been trying to learn--that astronaut seemed really excited about commercial when she visited campus last month, but there’s a lot of them.
    Paragon sounds nifty, and Blue seems like they've got a lot of money, so hopefully they can make some quick progress.
    I am hoping to see Virgin and RpK fly this year.

    truth_is_life[6:58 PM]
    Yeah, that’ll be cool.

    rwdavidoff[6:58 PM]
    That's some real science fiction stuff.

    truth_is_life[6:59 PM]
    Yeah, seeing everyday...well, okay, pretty rich...people flying into space, that’s a big deal.

    rwdavidoff[7:02 PM]
    It is. Anyway, I really should stop moping and try and finish this statics homework.
    Or get a nap.
    Especially if I'm staying up tonight to watch the launch attempt.
    See you around?

    truth_is_life[7:04 PM]
    Yeah, talk later!

    NOTE: My thanks to @Workable Goblin for his help in preparing this post.
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019