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.

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  1. Threadmarks: 4/20 Launch It?

    e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

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    The last line brought a frown, but then the bell rang, and the student hurriedly looked up from the library computer. Calc next, and that meant the end of his time on ARN’s forums until he got home. Still, as he slung his bag over his shoulder and headed out into the press of students, he couldn’t help wondering...Apollo without Saturn?
     
  2. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

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    Thing is, Saturn V was chosen for the Apollo Moonshot for two key reasons:

    1 - They needed a massive superbooster that could carry everything in one go in part due to lack of experience with Rendezvous and Docking so wanted as little as they could get away with. One. And in part to make sure they ha a realistic chance of (a) meeting Kennedy's Deadline, and (b), getting to the Moon ahead of the Soviets.

    2 - Even though the Saturn IV was the LOR LV of choice, Von Braun used the Saturn V instead to have reserve capacity. Turned out to be a smart move. The Orbiter and Lander wound up some 50% overweight (something Von Braun saw coming from past experience), but the 20% increase in what Saturn V could do thanks to extreme conservatism in said performance parameters meant it was just about up to the job.

    This made Saturn V/Apollo perfect at achieving what is was built to do, but rendered it so ill-suited to anything else that it's really should be no surprise that they didn't make any new orders past the initial thirteen.


    This being relevant to Ares I/V as it suffered from the exact same problems, and a few new ones.

    As it had been designed, it could do Manned Lunar Missions very well, and that pretty much was it, and tried to do that with perhaps half the funding Apollo enjoyed in Real Terms.

    Some of which applies to SLS IOTL as well...

    Still, it's obvious that Ares I/V (and Constellation with it) are in serious trouble here, as it was IOTL
     
  3. e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

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    Indeed. It's really not in more trouble or less at this point, but I thought it was interesting re-reading old threads how much by 2009 Ares I's issues were well-known, the question was only if it was worth saving or if an EELV might replace it, and what that failure might mean for Ares V. Even the depot bit from DIRECT is (somewhat) historical.
     
  4. RanulfC Well-Known Member

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    Polish Eagle wrote:
    Can’t recall the exact speed at cut off but it’s somewhere around Mach-5 to get enough velocity to hit 100km. And more power/speed if your ascent angle isn’t steep enough (70 to 90 degrees). So your airframe has to be pretty robust to handle the loading and stress which is why one of the initial X-prize entrees using a similar jet-aircraft/rocket combo was not given a go-ahead for development. Rather than a Learjet, (bit expensive) the team planned to use a surplus/retired NAA T-39 Sabreliner, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_Sabreliner) with a rocket stuck in the tail :)

    Saberliner would never have handled the stress of using the rocket engine, meanwhile the Learjet might have held together going up but would have folded on the way down. That’s why they began redesigning and rebuilding the Learjet with only a few main components being left.

    I think I mentioned this before but bear with me. In order to Help clarify “Sub-Orbital” flight we came up with a classification on NSF:

    Class-1: Straight up then straight down. May have ‘some’ arc up to perhaps 50 or less km as adding distance requires more energy.
    Advantages: With a proper power plant it is the most efficient trajectory using the least energy to broach the 100km as long as horizontal distance and energy is minimized. Beings that the start and landing zone are so close vehicle recovery and reuse are technically enhanced but this greatly depends on the design of the vehicle and the operations plan.

    Disadvantages: High stress reentry for aircraft and passengers. Both experience high aerodynamic loads due to the vehicle coming down almost vertically into the atmosphere. G loads for passengers can reach and/or exceed 9gs for higher flights. Short “weightless’ duration. 60-120 seconds for “Low” trajectories like SpaceShip One/Two, “High” flights can get longer weightlessness period at a cost of higher aerodynamic and G loads. Spaceship one experienced 5Gs on entry while Spaceship Two is expected to average 9 due to flying higher to allow up to 5 minutes of freefall. Blue Origin’s New Sheppard should experience similar loading.

    Methods suggested to relieve such strain are to increase the vehicle ‘drag’ cross section such as the extending panels of the TGV Michelle-B VTVL vehicle but this has some control and weight and balance issues due to locations of the major mass concentrations in such a design. Note that while the ‘feather’ of Spaceship One/Two enhance stability and control they in fact do no greatly reduce aerodynamic stress or G forces,

    Class-II: This has a distance as well as height component, Not only do they rise above 100km altitude but they also typically do not “take-off” or land at the same spot. Sometimes they do but this then requires added ‘trip’ time to the launch point such a a ‘boost-forward’ mission where the vehicle flys subsonic to a point ‘up-range from its base before engaging the rocket and flying upwards. Upon reentry the vehicle should be very near its home port and once landed can immediately be serviced and refurbished. Note Rocket-Plane was slated to fly about 100 miles/160km ‘up-range’ form where it would land to an area designated for it to launch clear of all commercial traffic, light the rocket, fly a ballistic trajectory to 100km and then enter and glide back to base using it’s jet engines for terminal power.

    Disadvantages are that it takes more power and propellant to fly this kind of flight and more complex operations and planning. Also the heating pulse it longer and drawn out and the shallow trajectory does not give a lot of time to experience zero G. Advantages are that the aerodynamic and G loading is somewhat less and the horizontal velocity along with vehicle lift can keep them to an acceptable level. Another advantage is it is vastly easier to tap into other commercial and support operations, (hotels, shows, tourism and experiences) since the passenger not only gets to go on a ‘suborbital’ ride but they also went “someplace” when they did it! “Space Travel” rather than a carnival ride.

    Take for example my favorite “What if?” involving some casino owners in West Wendover Nevada, (East Wendover is in Utah) who want to make some money and want to tape into the more wealthy and popular resort town of .Las Vegas. (Distance as the bird flies is 321 miles or 516 km, it’s actually a bit shorter going from Los Angeles/Pasadena to Los Vegas at 228 miles or 316 km, Mojave City ito Los Vegas is even shorter at 187 miiles or 301 km)) Tourists on vacation in Las Vegas are flown to Wendover for a few days 'fun' (it can be, and hey you get to visit "historic" Wendover Field where they practiced to drop the A-bomb, ya ok) and are then packed aboard you Class-2 suborbital ferry for an hour-ish long ride up and over and down to a field near Las Vegas and then bused back to the original casino/hotel to 'assimilate' the trip. Fun and profits for all :)

    Nobody is going to pay $200,000.00 for such a 'side-trip' and frankly VG and BO both are looking at the 'trip' to just be an 'event' over a two-week stay and a luxery resort. With "astronauts" giving "briefings" and "training" which is going to really amount to slipping the tourist something to try and avoid the sad fact that 99% of everybody exposed to freefall get SAD (Space Adaption Sickness which would be NO fun in a small space with a bunch of other people) from such a trip. Even RocketPlane was working with a resort chain to arrange a similar package. About the only one that straight out planned to set UP at a resort was XCOR which was what allowed their pricing compared to the others.

    Now I've seen a Russian suggestion for a 'hybrid' suborbital vehicle where they actually have a pretty normal aircraft encased in a launch and reentry shell. Goes up and does its thing but once its back down enough the shell splits, (falls away actually as it only covers enough to protect the aircraft) and the plane goes into a regular aircraft airport while the shell is recovered
    separately. It actually concentrates the prices, cost and parts in the right places rather than trying to compromise one into the other. Downside is bulk and complexity but not as badly as one might think.

    Randy
     
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  5. RanulfC Well-Known Member

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    Oh and IIRC didn't some of the people who originally worked on the X-Prize "Rocketplane" move on to "Pioneer Rocketplane" instead of Rocketplane-Kistler?
    (Pioneer was based on the Black Horse in-flight-propellant-transfer, see: http://www.ai.mit.edu/projects/im/magnus/bh/analog.html) concept and tried to go commercial with it)

    Randy
     
  6. TimothyC Well-Known Member

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    Pioneer Rocketplane was bought by Rocketplane Limited (this is when George French came into the picture). They then purchased Kistler's assets after they went bankrupt, and became Rocketplane Kistler. That didn't work (because they couldn't get funding needed for COTS in 2007), and the company went through Chapter 7 bankruptcy and liquidation starting in 2010. The assets of Rocketplane Kistler were bought up by George French and John Burgener, and they used them to form Rocketplane Global. The company still exists - The website was updated to show continued corporate life just as recently as last year - and Chuck Lauer (one of the three known employees of Rocketplane Global - the fourth isn't published) even made a presentation last week at Reinventing Space 2018:

    https://twitter.com/RISpace2018/status/1057566507331448833

    This spurred on Gary Hudson to say over on NSF "It's Halloween. Spirts and the undead walk the earth."
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2018
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  7. Workable Goblin Spacepony

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    Heh, if anyone would know...

    (Poor Gary, really. Someone outta do a timeline where he makes better decisions and ends up a bit luckier...)
     
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  8. RanulfC Well-Known Member

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    TimothyC wrote:
    Love Gary’s sense of humor :) So the XS is the Phoenix and aimed at boosting satellites while the XP is still a modified Learjet, hmmm.

    Interesting that there’s been some resurgent interest in small (business-class) hypersonic designs again such as this one:

    https://www.instituteforthefuture.it/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Russo-Presentation-SPHS-Glasgow.pdf

    Note this design assumes you can achieve Mach7 with just a standard sub-sonic combustion ramjet instead of needing a Scramjet. It’s TRUE of course but when you’re being practical rather than looking to ‘advance the state of the art’ it would make sense to go with what you know will work I suppose.

    Yes actually but what's a good POD? His ideas and presentation always seemed solid and he always seemed to attract good "help"... I figured most of it was being a bit ahead of the times so that when the idea might gain more attraction is was already 'old' so people moved on.

    Randy
     
  9. Workable Goblin Spacepony

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    I see two big problems that Gary has had, one of which is having trouble finding funding (but that's been a problem for everyone except Bezos and Musk for fairly obvious reasons), the other of which has been having and pushing ideas which, putting it kindly, were unlikely to work well (Roton!). I reckon he might have gotten somewhere if he'd cottoned on to TSTO as an operational mode earlier and maybe found some kind of rich sponsor, kind of like Bob Citron did (relevantly to this thread). He's not going to be the CEO, but maybe the technical director and chief engineer...?

    Anyway, I think you really need a two-part PoD. First, he's got to get together with someone rich and interested in space who can help ensure that the company gets funding. Second, he needs to have a realistic idea for what to do that doesn't require a huge amount of progress in the state-of-the-art and actually ends up working well (i.e., not an SSTO). If you can do those in the 1980s or early 1990s, I think he has a fighting chance of getting something designed by him flying.
     
  10. RanulfC Well-Known Member

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    Actually Gary and Bevin's initial idea, (Bevin McKinney's original idea actually) would have worked for the initial "proof-of-concept" vehicle size. ("Two people and a ham sandwich" into LEO) But you're correct that SSTO was probably a step to far even though they weren't at all alone chasing that particular Chimera after all :) I'm surprised how many people are unaware that the "Phoenix" actually had a "zero-stage" for quite a while before Gary convinced himself to push it as straight-SSTO. (And again he wasn't really that 'far' ahead of the curve) Looking back at the original Kistler designs in fact the Orbital vehicle was in fact based on the "Phoenix" somewhat but "lighter" to allow more performance. (Up to and including the landing gear so it landed in a net :) ) Methane to make the tanks smaller and the "Launch Assist Platform" to act as a zero-stage.

    It changed to the "current" configuration because the aerospike wasn't available, (or at that time flight tested) and Kistler felt that a more 'conservative' reentry and landing system would be more near-term.

    And before we go calling Gary out on being... Well lets call it "extremely optimistic" shall we? How about Jordin Kare and LLNL?
    There was an X-Prize group called "TGV" or "Three Guys and a Van" and they could probably support this vehicle concept. I give you "Mockingbird", officially "Multiple Application Rocket Drone, (MARD) or as it was cutely known "Bricklifter" because that was about the payload it "might" get: http://www.quantumg.net/mockingbird.pdf

    To be fare mind you Jordin tended to be the "face" guy for some of the more 'out-there' LLNL proposals and this one was mostly to show off the LLNL design work on the piston-pump for small scale, high performance rockets. (I recall a presentation by him at a local convention a few years ago where he told a story of the LLNL work on laser-pulse propulsion. The working group had come to the conclusion that the historical "reinforced-ice" propellant wasn't the best solution and had taken to using vegetables rated by their water content for calculations. A supervisor walked in during a rather heated debate between watermelons and cucumbers as compared by structural strength in both horizontal and vertical axis. He turned right around and walked out again without a word to anyone. Jordin noted his face had the expression of someone who really, really wants to ask, but just can't bring themselves to do so [​IMG] )

    Randy
     
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  11. Workable Goblin Spacepony

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    To be fair, I'm not criticizing Gary alone for going after SSTO; that applies to everyone (even Bono only aimed at stage and a half). It's just that, well, we were discussing Gary and not the others...

    I have to admit that I'm also not too familiar with most of the people you're talking about, the '80s scene was literally before my time and I was just a kid during the '90s--a very space-nerd kid, granted, so I did have some clue of what was going on (the first time I found out about Kistler was sometime in the mid-to-late 1990s from an article in Air & Space...), but still just a kid.
     
  12. RanulfC Well-Known Member

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    Stage-and-a-half with drop tanks always made more sense to me as well though I'd note your reentry mass ratio (and heating) goes up fast. Yes and Ok I DID mention Dr. Pournelle, Max Hunter and a few others of the "SSTO-uber-alles" crowd... Maybe it wasn't here though :)

    SSX/DC-X was very much the 'high' water mark of the SSTO crowd, not they have gone away mind you :) You young whipper-snappers don't know how good you've got it with a proven reusable rocket and angel-investors out the wahzoo! (Yes it's a word, get off my virtual lawn ya damn kids! ;) ) More seriously I've known for decades now, (wow, THAT sounded awkward didn't it :) ) several "SSTO" advocates so convinced that we not only could but SHOULD have SSTOs the refuse to work for aerospace companies that are NOT pursuing the technology. (One was quite proud to have turned down working for either SpaceX or BO because they weren't working on SSTOs. And yes both offered him a job)

    I'm in a spot myself because while I think SSTO IS possible I'm fully not convinced it is going to be either practical or as 'easy' as the advocates think. Especially in the operations area. On the other hand I'm also convinced that short, squat 'cone' shaped stages, despite the engineering issues, make the most sense for reusable rockets and that 'sticking' with long-thin even though it's easier to make, is a mistake. And you can see the vast crowd of people around me whom I've convinced of my utter genius...
    (Que crickets chirping in a dead silence)

    Yep, every one SO wants my opinion I'm frankly swamped :)

    Randy
     
  13. Threadmarks: Augustine Commission Begins

    e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

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  14. TimothyC Well-Known Member

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    I like 'Tim', but we can see here that is brevity and bruskness can lead to errors in communication.
     
  15. TimothyC Well-Known Member

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    One other thing that often gets overlooked, and I'm glad to see it mentioned here (even in passing) is Sidemount. If you haven't spun down ET production, a sidemount solution is probably the fastest way to get a US launch capability as it requires a minimum of GSE modifications (the crew access arm, and maybe some changes to the rotating service structure if you want to do things with the payload while on the pad). In that way, it's the quick and dirty version of Direct. The obvious downside is that while it is the lowest cost and fastest path, it also has some of the highest risk for crew (the Orion is next to the ET, with an LAS tower, but still not above the tank), the lowest payloads, and the least growth options.
     
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  16. Polish Eagle AntiFa Supersoldier

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    It’s my own personal preferred ESAS option, but the logic behind it, as you say, does disappear when you start making significant changes at Michoud and LC-39. So, by the time of the second Augustine Commission, it’s too little, too late.

    OTOH, in hindsight, with the delays to EUS and other SLS upgrades, it might not have been a bad idea even in 2011. Well, the past is an open book.
     
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  17. Threadmarks: July 3, 2009: LAP-1 Rollout at Michoud

    e of pi Layers on Top of Layers

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    July 3, 2009. It was a sweltering day to be outside. The heat and smothering humidity promised rain, but the light cloud cover promised that neither would the rain come soon, nor would it bring much enough rain to really break the back of the humidity. While the planners and the press cameras appreciated the lack of weather, it pressed down the mood of the engineers and technicians circulating, watching as a tug slowly pulled a transporter trailer out of one of Michoud’s massive shipping doors. The engineers who were able to brave the heat and the lethargy of the Friday before a three day holiday weekend walked alongside the transporter, watching with furrowed brows and crossed arms as technicians scurried to check the rolling assembly. As the press swarmed, cameras clicking, the dignitaries descended on the vehicle atop the transporter. It was massive in diameter, towering over the engineers and technicians who worked around it as it left the shadow of the assembly hall, but oddly stumpy. Like much of the K-1 vehicle, it had geometry only an engineer could love--little of the elegant length of a Saturn or even of the Space Shuttle External Tanks which most commonly used this massive door, nor did it quite share their size. Despite this, for those gathered to aid in the unveiling of the first K-1 Launch Assistance Platform to the public, this was a momentous occasion, one worth the fireworks, drinking, and feasting of this weekend all on its own.

    A naysayer to Kistler would have had little trouble finding a past target. George French was front and center, sharing an apparently friendly huddle with Acting NASA Administrator Scolese and his full-time replacement, the nominated (and rumored to be shortly confirmed) General Bolden. As press watched, they were joined by the cheerfully bespeckled but increasingly frail figure of another figure with proud NASA credentials when George Mueller joined the group, offering a hand to French as the vehicle Mueller had worked to make a reality rolled out of Michoud after more than a decade on a path paved by (or, as some alleged more correct, with) French’s investors. Mueller wasn’t the only representative of past Kistler incarnations circulating in the crowd of dignitaries, and Walter Kistler himself soon emerged to join the quickly swelling crowd around French. Others past and present circulated, including Debra Faktor Lapore, who had helped bring the NK-33 to the awareness of American engineers, watched as the rocket which would hopefully carry “the engine that came in from the cold” finally on the path to space was dragged to the assembled microphones of the podium. There, willing to wait for the vehicle and French’s growing circus of experienced engineers and program managers acting like schoolchildren to make their way over, was Randy Brinkley--former head of the International Space Station program and now one of the senior leaders of the Kistler vehicle program at RPK. It was rumored even Gary Hudson had received an invitation, though he had apparently replied that he was regrettably unable to attend. The joke that had circulated on the Kistler assembly stands was that he had simply been unable to arrange a non-stop flight while booking tickets.

    The barrel-shaped stage rolled on, the three Russian engines with their nozzle covers carefully in place seeming almost lonely on the base of a stage nearly the diameter of the Space Shuttle’s ET. The bare space around the line of three engines on its base only emphasized the short length of the stage, driven by the wide diameter. Still, even if it looked not quite like any vehicle that had gone before, LAP-1 looked handsome enough .The paint on the repeating pattern of “K-1” stencils around the middle of the stage, just above the lettering “RPK”, was fresh and cheerful blue, and the rocket first stage looked as perfect as it could be touched up to appear. It wasn’t quite flight-ready--a few more days of work were anticipated after the ceremony before the chartered Airbus Beluga could arrive to carry the stage (and the first of the detachable payload modules) to Woomera to begin checking out ground support equipment at the constructed but as yet untested integration and launch facilities there. For many of the components, delivered to Michoud in the late nineties, this roll into the sunlight in search of better speech photography backdrops was their first time leaving the facility in more than a decade. For others like the tanks which had been assembled by Lockheed Martin within Michoud itself in 1998, these were the very first miles of the thousands that would be hopefully follow. That kind of payoff tomore than a decade and a half of work, it was generally agreed, was definitely worth working in this weather in exchange for something like a half day, ahead of a three day weekend. The sun beat down through the patchy, close-pressed clouds, and everything seemed bright.
     
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  18. Polish Eagle AntiFa Supersoldier

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    Lovely turn of phrase. And a good chapter overall—looking forward to seeing LAP-1 in action.
     
  19. scretchy Well-Known Member

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    good to see the rocket coming together.
    Only thing that bothered me a bit was the selection of woomera as launch facility. I can see launches from woomera going south-west and north-east, is that a good angle to go to the iss?
    Also would the usa allow use of a foreign launch site? And they would never get contracts for the military or nsa/etc. sats.
     
  20. Bahamut-255 Space Lover

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    I think I know exactly what that phrase was taken from. That Equinox Documentary concerning the N1, and Kuznetsov's NK Engines.

    But the Woomera Launch Facility in Australia(?)? Why?
     
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