lunar shuttles

Spike Jones (
Tue, 20 Jul 1999 21:44:01 -0700 wrote:

> Completely unnecessary. With the right booster, the shuttle without *any*
> modifications could easily reach lunar orbit....

This did get me to thinking about nonideal designs for space hardware. The notion is to use what we have rather than continually reinventing. Space hardware is expensive because it is so costly to design and test, not because it is particularly expensive to produce. There is a big advantage to using the external tank and solids, being as we already have the "mass production" facilites.

But look at it another way. Every space guy who has ever looked at the space shuttle has had serious heartburn. Why oh why did we *ever* build such an ugly system? It passes through max Q, maximum dynamic pressure, with allll thaaat cross sectional area: the two boosters, the external tank, the orbiter with those wings and tail! We lose a lot to aerodynamic drag, and solids, ewww, yuk. }8-P Compare that to the Saturn V, which *was* a good system for going to the moon. [Having a Saturn V-like system does not preclude the recovery of the stages, by the way, we just didnt attempt it back then.]

The shuttle is not optimized for passing thru the atmosphere, it is optimized for passing thru congess. [You two senators from Utah, build the boosters. You senators from Georgia, build the external tanks...] What we end up with is about the least efficient system possible, in terms of performance and cost. We design it to be expensive! No wonder so many rocket companies are springing up.

Compare our shuttle with the way the Chinese do their space systems. First, they isolate *all* the rocket people, the satellite people, everyone that does space, in a city off by themselves. They build the satellites right there, stack the rockets, launch the rockets, do everything right there. They dont have a congress as we know it, so they dont need to go to the expense of intentionally spreading out space work to every state in the union.

Paul, you got me started on a rant I fear. {8-] Your initial point may have been: we need to utilize the stuff we have instead of starting over with each new space idea. In this particular case, the space shuttle isnt up to the task. We could perhaps use it to lift a moon-bound spacecraft in the cargo bay. This is a non-ideal system, but it is the system we have. {8-[ Its like using a fire engine to deliver pizzas. Makes sense if you need to deliver pizzas and all you have is a fire engine. spike