NASA plans 2014 test-flight of deep-space capsule

Nov 08, 2011
NASA said Tuesday it will launch in 2014 an unmanned test flight of its Orion deep space capsule, made by Lockheed Martin to someday carry astronauts to the moon, an asteroid or Mars.

NASA said Tuesday it will launch in 2014 an unmanned test flight of its Orion deep space capsule, made by Lockheed Martin to someday carry astronauts to the moon, an asteroid or Mars.

The test launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida aims to send the capsule into orbit, where it will circle the Earth twice, then attempt to make an intact re-entry into Earth's atmosphere before plunging into the ocean.

The US space agency said in a statement it hopes the data will help "influence design decisions" and "reduce the cost and schedule risks of exploration missions."

There was no specific date set for the launch other than the year, 2014.

"The entry part of the test will produce data needed to develop a spacecraft capable of surviving speeds greater than 20,000 miles per hour (32,000 kilometers) and safely return astronauts from beyond ," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for and operations.

"This test is very important to the detailed design process in terms of the data we expect to receive."

NASA announced earlier this year that the designs for the Orion space capsule, which was initially part of the Constellation program to take astronauts back to the Moon, would be used for the next deep space capsule.

Constellation was cancelled by President for being behind schedule and over budget. Obama has instead set goals of reaching an asteroid by 2025 and Mars a decade after that.

Corporation began work on the space capsule in 2006. The 23-ton capsule is being designed to carry four astronauts at a time into deep space.

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dschlink
3.8 / 5 (9) Nov 08, 2011
By the time this flies, in any form, the SpaceX Dragon will be operational and carrying people. By 2020, there will be 4-6 alternatives. NASA needs to focus its money on unmanned exploration and a super-heavy NON-man-rated vehicle.
Dunbar
4 / 5 (4) Nov 08, 2011
The technology for SpaceX's Dragon capsule comes from NASA. It's a vehicle designed for low Earth orbit, not deep space.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2011
a super-heavy NON-man-rated vehicle.


And even that is pointless if Falcon Heavy is successful.
ShotmanMaslo
4 / 5 (4) Nov 08, 2011
The technology for SpaceX's Dragon capsule comes from NASA. It's a vehicle designed for low Earth orbit, not deep space.


Nope, it is designed for both. SpaceX has repeatedly stated that they want to use it for deep space missions, and it is designed to survive high-speed reentries.
that_guy
5 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2011
SpaceX would have to develope a rocket with considerably more weight/power capacity than the falcon heavy to be useful for deeper space exploration.

The dragon capsule is just a basic small capsule (Smaller than the Nasa capsule). By itself it doesn't do much other than hold people and earth re-entry.

That said, i don't understand the point of the article stating that the nasa capsule is for mars. It's too small to house them for the whole trip, and not made as a lander.

The NASA capsule is the biggest of all 2.5 man-rated capsules (Dragon, Orion, and one stuck on the drawing board), but any mars or even moon scenario requires many pieces that have nothing to do with the G--D--- capsule.

I think the reason why NASA wants the orion capsule is so that it can bring all the astronauts back to earth from a mars mission in one shot rather than 2 or 3 dragons that might be needed to house all the astrunauts.
ShotmanMaslo
3 / 5 (2) Nov 08, 2011
That said, i don't understand the point of the article stating that the nasa capsule is for mars. It's too small to house them for the whole trip, and not made as a lander.


Obviously, any Mars mission will rely on separate habitat modules. The capsule will be just for landing on Earth (Mars?).

SpaceX would have to develope a rocket with considerably more weight/power capacity than the falcon heavy to be useful for deeper space exploration.


I dont see any reason why 50 tons to low orbit is not enough for everything we would want, including even a Mars mission.
that_guy
5 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2011
@shot

my point exactly - the other components to get to mars are far more substantial than dragon or orion.

As for the falcon heavy, that 50 tons to LEO is about 19 tonnes to GTO.

Consider that a fully supplied orion capsule capable of getting to the moon (Sans Lander) runs about 21 tonnes. So you're looking at a minimum two launches to the moon.

Dragon is essentially just a launch/re-entry vehicle with basic maneuverability. You would need a living space, bigger engines, etc..

For a mars mission, you are looking at 4-8 times as much. That's a lot of rocket launches and dockings, and if one part goes wrong or out of sync, it can wreak havoc on the mission.

You may also have equipment that exceeds the falcon heavy fairing size, which is only just large enough for orion.

I do agree with trying to design a mars mission that can easily use dragon/falcon heavy (And bigelow modules) - but given the math, I understand why they are pursuing other avenues as well.
El_Nose
not rated yet Nov 08, 2011
SPACE X does not do heavy lifting -- why does everyone bring up space X when they are doing something totally different -- AND HAVE YET TO PROVE THEMSELVES
that_guy
5 / 5 (2) Nov 08, 2011
Space X does not do heavy lifting, yet. They are developing heavier rockets as we speak. The falcon 9 (standard/medium) has already made successful launches and is developing ahead of schedule.

I think they've proven themselves as a good rocket company after finally getting the falcon running, and then NOT having the same issues with their next rocket, the falcon 9.

Given spaceX's current progress, it is reasonable to be optimistic about them.

But I do recognize that you are correct, the falcon 9 heavy currently weights only a few grams on the paper that it is printed on.

The first Falcon heavy demo is scheduled for 2013 though - Well ahead of any proposed moon/mars mission, with plenty of time to work out the kinks.
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2011
As for the falcon heavy, that 50 tons to LEO is about 19 tonnes to GTO.

Consider that a fully supplied orion capsule capable of getting to the moon (Sans Lander) runs about 21 tonnes. So you're looking at a minimum two launches to the moon.


Launching to GTO is not the only option, Moon mission can be accomplished from LEO.

More launches is not a problem at all. Launch market is chronically launch-starved. Falcon, Delta and Atlas could provide dozens of launches per year with only marginal total cost increase. This would still be cheaper than developing a superheavy lifter.

We dont need more rockets, or bigger rockets. We need more payloads for those we already have (or will have in near future).

http://images.spa...2011.pdf
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2011
You may also have equipment that exceeds the falcon heavy fairing size, which is only just large enough for orion.


Fairing sizes are not set in stone, its not impossible to build larger fairings, or even fairings of non-standard shapes.
that_guy
5 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2011
You may also have equipment that exceeds the falcon heavy fairing size, which is only just large enough for orion.


Fairing sizes are not set in stone, its not impossible to build larger fairings, or even fairings of non-standard shapes.

If you want to fit something smaller than the fairings, then it is pretty easy - but if you want to launch something significantly bigger, then that necessitates new guidance programming and structural and skin changes, testing, etc...

essentially, if you want to go much beyond the standard fairing size of a rocket, then you're basically designing a new rocket...

Launching to GTO is not the only option, Moon mission can be accomplished from LEO.


Where you put your equipment to start with is inconsequential. The point is that the difference in lift capability between the two is a function of how much fuel it takes to get from one spot to the other.

Continued...

that_guy
5 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2011
If you stage your mission in LEO, then you still need to bring enough fuel to get you past GTO. While LEO may possibly be easier to organize your mission from, the lift ability to GTO gives us a more relevant idea of how much you can get to the moon or beyond.

It takes more fuel to get out of earth orbit from LEO than it does from GTO, which correlates real nicely with how much a rocket can get to the higher orbit.

The number of rocket launches is a big concern, not only because of costs (Although, SpaceX seems to be on track to mitigate the cost issue), but because of complexity and multiple failure points. I don't believe you understand exactly how much effort and risk each extra step requires. With current ability/technology, there is a point of complexity where a mission would essentially become impossible if there were too many launches, dockings, and pieces involved.

That said, I'm sure the plan will evolve as SpaceX proves its rockets, etc - as well.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Nov 08, 2011
As NASA is primarily a military agency, this craft will be developed with this in mind. It will have different capabilities than any now being developed for commercial use.

Trust me. Its not being built to make money, nor to save it.
astro_optics
not rated yet Nov 08, 2011
This is sooo retarded :(
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (1) Nov 09, 2011
essentially, if you want to go much beyond the standard fairing size of a rocket, then you're basically designing a new rocket...


I believe you are seriously overestimating the complexity of such fairing modifications. Changes will be needed, but it will still be a lot cheaper than a new rocket.

Where you put your equipment to start with is inconsequential.


With fuel depots, it is, Falcon Heavy is enough to launch an Orion and a lander in that case.

but because of complexity and multiple failure points. I don't believe you understand exactly how much effort and risk each extra step requires.


Most of launches will be transfer stages, fuel depots and mainly propellant, and it will be launched before manned elements. Risk to astronauts will not be increased. As for risk of loss of some elements, I dont believe it is that much, nor will it usualy make mission unsalvageable if a propellant launch fails. US rockets are pretty reliable nowadays
ShotmanMaslo
3 / 5 (2) Nov 09, 2011
If you stage your mission in LEO, then you still need to bring enough fuel to get you past GTO.


But not necessarily in one launch. Refueling on the way is a neat way to accomplish the same task without the need for an oversized rocket.
ShotmanMaslo
3 / 5 (2) Nov 09, 2011
The point is, we will NEVER truly colonize space if we dont make launching, docking, orbital refueling and fuel depot use a simple routine. Thus we have to do it anyway. So while your approach may be less complex in the short term, it has far less potential for the future. Modular approach, fuel depots and cheap-per-kg medium HLVs with high launch frequency are the logical way to go for the future.
Dunbar
not rated yet Nov 09, 2011
Nope, it is designed for both. SpaceX has repeatedly stated that they want to use it for deep space missions, and it is designed to survive high-speed reentries.


Thank you for pointing that out. I'd assumed the Dragon capsule was based on Gemini era technology, they are in fact using Apollo tech.
Pirouette
2.7 / 5 (3) Nov 09, 2011
Great idea, Shotman. . .I'm all for the "fuel depot" idea. If a series of fuel tankers could be launched and set in orbit around the Earth ABOVE a LEO, plus several in orbit around the Moon, any initial launch of a manned capsule from Earth would not require as much fuel for its payload as long as it can safely dock with one of the orbiting fuel tankers, refuel to capacity, then take off for Mars. A few tankers would need to be set in orbit around Mars also to refuel for the return trip. Robotics can take the fuel to each tanker for refill.
that_guy
not rated yet Nov 09, 2011
Yeah, I think we'll have to agree to disagree on the complexity of the matter. I do agree that NASA/SpaceX SHOULD pursue the concepts you laid out there - I'm just saying that NASA has plenty of reasons to be conservative about it.

Except the refueling thing. We should use ion/electric engines for interplanetary missions. I don't think refueling should be a necessary step.

Also, as before, the GTO orbit is just a simpler method to figure out how much you can get up there. The weight requirements to make a mission are more complicated to calculate from LEO, because you still have to calculate the amount of fuel to get up to GTO. Since it's nominally a zero sum game, it's just easier to calculate your weight based on the higher orbit - since you don't need to account for the extra fuel.

It takes much less fuel to break orbit from the higher spot.

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