NASA looking for more space taxis

February 8, 2012 By Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today
Artist concept of Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser docked to the ISS. Credit: Sierra Nevada

NASA is looking for more ways to get astronauts to the International Space Station. The space agency put out a call today for commercial space companies to submit bids as part of the latest round of the Commercial Crew Program, now called Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCICap). NASA plans to select at least two potential providers for “safe, reliable, and cost effective human access to space” and they expects to make multiple awards this summer, with values ranging from $300 – $500 million. Those winning the bids will need to develop an integrated system that includes both a crew vehicle and launch system, with work to be completed May 31, 2014.

NASA currently relies on Russian Soyuz vehicles to bring crews to the station, at a cost of $63 million per seat. The Soyuz has experienced unprecedented recent problems with both the Soyuz rocket and now a delay in the next two Soyuz flights to the ISS due to a leak of the capsule during testing.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager Ed Mango spoke at a forum this morning, prior to NASA’s official CCICap announcement and said the hopes are that an initial crewed demonstration flight to low Earth orbit will take place in 2015-2016, with regular commercially operated flights to the ISS beginning around 2017.

The projected timing and funding all hinges on whether Congress approves NASA’s budget request; Legislators provided $406 million for Commercial Crew in 2012, less than half of what the agency requested.

“President Obama is working hard to create an American economy built to last,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a NASA press releases. “NASA’s support of commercial innovation to reach low Earth orbit is helping to support these efforts by spurring new technological development and creating jobs and economic benefits for years to come.”

The companies will also need to provide ground operations and mission control, and to meet certain milestones in the development in of a crewed orbital demonstration flight.

Current companies receiving funds from for commercial crew are Boeing, Sierra Nevada, SpaceX, and Blue Origin. Companies have until March 23, 2012 to submit their proposals.

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3 / 5 (2) Feb 08, 2012
SpaceX will proceed, regardless. Musk wouldn't mind owning manned space travel.
5 / 5 (1) Feb 08, 2012
What about Lockheed Martin with their Orion space vehicle? Are they out of the race?
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 08, 2012
What about using non chemical rocket means to launch? For example, electromagnetic sleds.
not rated yet Feb 08, 2012
What about Lockheed Martin with their Orion space vehicle? Are they out of the race?

No, but I believe they are not part of the commercial crew program.

My bet is that Blue Origin spacecraft will not be chosen, and it is possible that either Sierra Nevada or Boeing will be discarded if only two providers are to fly.
4 / 5 (4) Feb 08, 2012
What about using non chemical rocket means to launch? For example, electromagnetic sleds.

Do the math. You would have to dig hundreds of kilometers down to get a rail long enough so that g forces would be tolerable during liftoff.

And having a horizontal rail and then angling it up - like in the movies - will kill your astronauts instantly. Go to an amusement park ride. These things do 70km/h and produce up to 6g on the turns. For ballistic liftoff you need at least 11km PER SECOND.
1 / 5 (2) Feb 08, 2012
It's not entirely impossible. It would just take some major engineering but would provide big time launch assistance and reduce the fuel needed to boost into space substantially http://en.wikiped...s_driver

I have also read some recommendations to build one of these going up the side of a mountain.
not rated yet Feb 09, 2012
You are still limited by g forces. Manned chemical rockets are already limited to some degree by max G's. Plus you dont just need 11km/s you need 11k/s without any friction losses. Ever opened the car window going 70mph?
People aren't the only thing sensitive to G's either, you cant just expect a state of the art com sat to take more than 10-20 g's. Savings in fuel weight is eaten up by requiring a much more robust vehicle capable of surviving the launch.

5 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2012
reduce the fuel needed to boost into space substantially

But fuel cost for rocket launch is negligible.
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 09, 2012
I have also read some recommendations to build one of these going up the side of a mountain.

The highest mountain is less than 9km high.
At 6g (which is barely tolerable for well trained humans for the approx. 3 minutes you'd need to accelerate) you need a rail that is 1000km long. WITHOUT any bends whatsoever after the first few kilometers.
A mountain just isn't high enough for this (even going down into the oceans isn't nearly enough.)
not rated yet Feb 12, 2012
At the South Pole there is desending air and ice.
Place a circular rail on the ice. Build a bridge over the rail on the diameter. Make the diameter as large as possible.
The bridge is on wheels and rotates about the centre of the circle.
Water is sprayed from the bridge to build a giant convex lens of clear ice.
The lens is polished to perfection.
Aluminium is sprayed on the Ice.
Carbon fibres are sprayed onto the aluminium. Piezo crystals are placed on the carbon layer.
A supporting frame of your choice is laid over the crystals.
A current is passed through the aluminium to heat it and separate it from the ice.
Hydrogen is forced between the aluminium and the ice.
The structure floats away and is guided to the side, where it is allowed to flip over and settles on the surface.

Repeat the process.
The next structure is not allowed to flip over but is brought down onto the first and the edges are sealed with a gentle explosive paste..
Two linear accelerators and rocket are attached to
not rated yet Feb 12, 2012
Two linear accelerators and rocket are attached to the outside.
The construction is filled with hydrogen.

It is floated to the edge of space. The rocket takes the structure up to an altitude where the linear accelerator's thrust is sufficient to overcome atmospheric drag.
The steady thrust of the accelerator takes the vessel out of Earth's gravitational well, where the gentle explosive separates the construction. The two halves then go to L4 and L5.

A camera is placed at the focal point of the lens. Distortions are corrected by the piezo electric crystals.
The direction of the two giant lenses is co-ordinated to yield binocular views of exoplanets.

This information is presented in an auditorium on the earth as a halographic model.

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