Re: Surplus launch vehicles

From: Spike Jones (
Date: Mon Oct 16 2000 - 23:45:31 MDT

Jeff Davis wrote:

> Doug and Spike, extropian space cadets, (insert joke here about keeping up
> with the Joneses),

Just keep up with Doug, and you will be way past me.

> Would you speculate on the usability for leo launch purposes rather than
> the originally intended nuclear warhead delivery, of the various icbm's
> slated for decommissioning as part of the end of the cold war.

They can make orbit with some payload, but not *a lot* of payload.
We looked at em for carrying a single human for a three orbit joy-ride,
and found with *extensive* modification they could carry a light person
and enough air for the five hour ride, assuming very few comforts
of home, no food, not a lot of safety gear etc. We didnt end up
pursuing that business opportunity.

> Could we
> strap these old boosters together and get a series of bargain basement
> launches out of them?

Hmmm, probably not as effective as the low cost commercial liquids
that are on the drawing boards, but Doug might have an opinion
here. Problem with the decomissioned ICBMs are they are really
designed for creating a ballistic orbit, and you still need a lot more
delta vee to make even a treetop orbit.

> Any idea of the number of boosters we're talkin about here?

Jeff, Id tell ya, but then Id hafta give you a frontal lobotomy. {8^D
I dont know, actually. Watch this channel tho, if the NMD program
goes as I hope it will, there should be a lotta useless missile hardware
on the market in the next 20 yrs.

> Are they mostly solid fuel?

All solid fuel. I assume you are talking about the sub launched
Fleet Ballistic Missiles here.

> What's the shelf life on those things,

Thats a gooooood question Jeff. They were originally designed
for 25 years, but 25 years came and went. A lotta the work
going on around the bomb factory in the 90s was determining
what the actual practical life of some of those items really is.
We have some components qualified to 50 years now, and there
is every reason to believe that date will come and go too, and it
will be cheaper at that time to qualify them out to 75 years rather
than let a bunch of new contracts.

> how long do they "keep" before the fuel starts to get "old"
> (whatever that means, beyond unsatisfactory reliability re national defense
> megadeath happy meal purposes. (Eat this you commie swine and smile!))?

{8^D Jeff you have such a way with words. Evidently the stuff
is highly stable. I havent heard of em being taken out of service
because the *fuel* was too old. Of course there are a lotta parts
on a missile. Recall that all the age critical stuff that they worry
about has to do with guidance and control, reliability, accuracy,
etc. I dont think the Navy worries too much if they need to pull
off a booster and throw it away, replace it with a new one, that is
the *cheap* part. The notion would be to get the old boosters
I think. Still, solids really arent that good for climbing all the way
to orbit. They would make good first stages I suppose.

Also recall we already have a commercial solid-to-orbit vehicle, the
Athena, formerly called the Lockheed Lauch Vehicle. It hasnt
been the most successful. Its very simple and all, but we havent
sold very many of them. For commercial purposes, I still think
a nice two stage LOX-kerosene burner is the ticket.

> I can just see it. Govt. auction. Offered for sale: surplus to current
> operational needs. Fifty minuteman icbm's. Recently inspected. Never
> been used. Buyer must arrange for transport. No minimum, no reserve. etc etc

Oooops, I guess I coulda read your whole post before starting to
babble. Minuteman you say? Thats a whole nuther story.

Jeff, Im beginning to see where you are going, and no, I dont think
there is gonna be huuuge savings in using decommissioned military
hardware for space access. Doug might jump in here, but I think
that the war stuff is too highly specialized for high reliability and other
design goals to be very good at heavy lift. The armed forces might
use some of their own decommissioned missiles for payload lift,
but I doubt they will sell it at bargain prices.

> What do they do with these things, anyway, when they decommission them as
> part of whatever arms control/disarmament agreement requires it? Anyone
> know FOR SURE? Destroy them, would be my guess. But perhaps they're just
> no good for "peaceful" purposes. Doug, spike? Anyone?

Ja, they destroy them in a very public way. They serve their purpose
creating tears of joy in the hearts of peaceloving people everywhere,
including me. I cant tell you how pleased I am that these death machines
were never used, and good chance now they never will be.

Recall the first manned space boosters were converted military

A few of the motors are used for ground test purposes, and of
course they have flight tests often. The FBM system has had
89 consecutive flawless firings, last I heard, and some of this
hardware is getting up there in years now. Shows to go ya, the
stuff was designed right to start with.

> I won't embellish my question any further because you can see where I'm
> going. I mean it isn't exactly rocket sci...well, er,... I guess,
> actually, it is.

Jeff keep an eye out for that guy from Kennewick Washington.
He is using Commie boosters with a recoverable first stage, from
the sea. Sounds to me like the front runner for doing what
you describe: low cost access to space. Kistler Engineering I
think its called, and Doug, this would be a great place to plug
your company. spike

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