Even if it is a NASA design, eh? Well, good, that ought to improve the economics for Boeing by a whole lot. And maybe some of that passes on to NASA, in the form of their later Lifter acquisitions being offered for a lower unit price.With option of 40 metric tons payload under a 6.6-meter-fairing to Orbit
i know what USAF will say "Shut up and take our money"
On first generation orbiter, who gonna build it ?
Grumman and Lockheed proposed a Lifting body as orbiter during Shuttle design phase
Martin Marietta build for NASA the X-24
Northrop build the M3-F3 and HL-10
The last two were heavy lobbing to get there Lifting bodies space born.
There might be some confusion here. The post showed us a second generation Orbiter. There are references to its predecessor, but none affirming the predecessor had the successor's lifting body design.
We might think that we have something like analogies of HL-42 and HL-20, only backwards, in that order--first they make the big Orbiter, then they rightsize it by shrinking it down later. (We know it is shrunken because of the S-IVB derivative upper stage used--1/5 the engines and roughly 1/5 the mass of the maximum sized S-II). Perhaps I am mistaken and the original Orbiter was also small, a real Flax Orbiter, and no manned flight has ever used the full power of an unballasted all out boost by the Lifter.
But anyway the nature of the first generation Orbiter seems somewhat up in the air--it could be a wide range of things.
The narrative makes me feel that in a just world, it would be Grumman that got the contract, but not necessarily to be laid out as they proposed; Maxime Faget could demand they make his boxcar with straight wings design. The Air Force could horn in at this point and demand it have delta wings and a heavy load of OMS fuel--maybe get slapped back on the latter point and told if they want it to do military aerobatics in the upper atmosphere they can buy one of their own and fill as much of the payload bay as they like with reserve propellant tanks. Or it could be Grumman's or anyone else's lifting body shape of course!
If I can trust Silverbird Calculator for the maximum possible payload to orbit, somewhere between 100 and 140 tons, this is the mass the first generation Orbiter should have. That is, in the same ballpark as OTL, maybe 20 tons lighter, maybe 20 tons heavier. If it masses exactly the same it should still have somewhat improved payload mass capability, due to omitting the SSMEs from the design.
And yet the authors have stated that more grandiose cargo bay capacity--such as championed by the Air Force OTL and installed on all Orbiters--would not be sought initially, with a slightly narrower and much shorter cargo bay. Presumably this means the Orbiter is designed to haul significantly less than 20 tons.
Clearly then either Silverbird is badly overestimating what a Saturn V S-II perched on a Lifter can put into orbit, or for some other reason the Orbiter is chosen to be less than maximum possible capability. Personally I'd like to think someone is capable of sitting down and thinking it through, realizing space planes are for carrying people and that alone, and designs a very small Orbiter that just accommodates a fair sized crew--7, 8 or so--for some weeks in orbit, but any and all cargo, lab space, etc goes in expendable modules stacked between the Orbiter and the upper stage. This unfortunately means a Space Lab type mission either has to have a new expendable lab module built for it every time, or that the lab module sacrifice much of its structure to enabling it to survive reentry separately somehow. And if we desire down mass, that a specialized hollow-shell true space truck Orbiter be built just for that purpose.
Well now--it could be that this is precisely what is happening in the second generation! We have before us a relatively smaller Orbiter, conceivably something bigger than HL-20 but much smaller than the original Orbiter that is indeed nothing but a ferry/habitat for crew, being tested now with a minimal launcher (S-IVB stage) but in future going to go up on many different sizes of upper stage, to enable additional cargo or modules.