RE: Violence---ETC

Philip Witham (
Fri, 14 Aug 1998 11:54:16 -0700

>Michael M. Butler:
>Lots of people have blown rockets up.
Aye, and the more parts they have, the more likely.

>Minor points: weren't the fielded systems simple solid boosters? And I seem
>to recall that the hypergolics were (/are) generally pretty wicked both to
>handle and to deal with if you got any on you (RFNA, UDMH, N04...).
The early units were Nitric acid and Aniline motors. This was safer than using LOX because you are guaranteed ignition. Ignition failure=BOOM.

>Yep, too big, too dumb. My outsider's view is that it's not sexy or leading
>edge and you have to "think Russian" (these are of course cognate).

Yes, and there is a mental concept of scale that people carry in their heads, and it is a shock to them to have that preconception re-adjusted. A related Truax/Goddard story: Bob said that when Goddard saw the business end of the V2's after the war, his jaw, literally, dropped in amazement. How could anyone build a rocket SO BIG??? I think we all suffer from the same error. What we should say, looking at a Space Shuttle, is: how can anyone build a rocket SO COMPLEX?

Here is an exercise: compare a large ship to a Saturn V rocket, and the rocket is clearly short, light, small. And rockets don't suffer from the same scaling law that limits airplanes to somewhere around the size of a 747 (square/cubed law relation of lifting area to weight).

>the PR (/perceived environmental) impact of a *BIG* boom can be daunting,
Yes. Perception again. Sea launch=little boom. LOX/Kerosene=low toxic emission relative to solid boosters or the hypergolics used in the Titan series rockets.

>Also, <sarcasm on> whaddawe want a big booster for? Nobody *DOES*
>anything in space that size. <sarcasm off>
This is not a joke to investors. They don't care much about the future.

>So of course they never will.
Never say that, have you forgotten our principles?! Gasp!

(snipped: re projects running out of money)
>Having lived and too often breathed Silicon Valley, permit me to remark
>that this is a salient feature of much of life here.
Sure, its human nature. But I get annoyed listening to arguments for/against various impractical booster concepts when it is obvious they are impractical. Piggybacked winged stages. Single stage to orbit techno-marvels that carry virtually no payload despite pushing all structures beyond the state of the art. Dozens of space shuttle main engines ganged together, all operating reliably, simultaneously(!). Mid-flight propellant loading from another vehicle. SCRAMLACE (liquify oxygen from the air in flight, for use out of the atmosphere). Sheesh.

Us space enthusiasts are our own worst enemy, all pointing to the stars, but all in different directions.