Re: NASA and the future of space exploration

From: Michael M. Butler (
Date: Sat Mar 17 2001 - 07:58:20 MST

Spike Jones wrote:
> the shuttle
> designers used the main engines already developed for the
> Saturn V first stage.

What? Wow, that's the first time I ever heard that. I would have thought
that the engineering for hydrogen fuel would have necessitated so much
redesign that it'd count as a different engine. But you're the
authority. :)

Of course, I hated the delta wing shuttle design decision so much I
might have willfully blocked that information out from my consciousness.
The Faget design (looked like a big fat X-25) had much greater
bring-down weight, but a smaller landing footprint. And we've heard the
stories about pressure from the USAF, right?

> each. Furthermore, when you actually do the math, the
> strap on solids make sense too, for all the same reasons:
> they are off-the-shelf parts now. Good chance it would
> be cheaper to go ahead and throw away an external
> tank than pay the price to have a totally reusable vehicle.

Except for the environmental impact of the solids. But your point below
still seems valid.

> These observations lead me to these conclusions: that
> a new heavy lift vehicle in the near future {next 20-30 yrs}
> will look a lot like the shuttle, with external tank and
> solids, and consequently the cost to orbit will not get
> dramatically cheaper in that time frame, which means
> the most promising route for space engineering is to
> make the payloads dramatically more capable, as in
> nanotech. spike

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