Space Access 2010

Space Access '10
Space Access Society info

Thu April 8 afternoon
Thu April 8 evening
Fri April 9 morning
Fri April 9 afternoon
Fri April 9 evening
Sat April 10 morning
Sat April 10 afternoon

Other coverage
RLV News

by Ian Kluft

These are notes I took from the presentations at the Space Access 2010 Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

Thursday afternoon, April 8, 2010

Henry Spencer and Henry Vanderbilt

Henry Vanderbilt, Space Access Society

quick intro, announcements

Henry Spencer, "on Affordable Spaceflight Beyond LEO: Alternate Approaches, Paths Not Taken"

Henry usually makes the opener presentation for the conference, providing a technical and forward-looking theme.

  • still using transparencies, promised PowerPoint next year
  • background info on space flight
  • diagrams of Earth's position in space
    • Low-Earth Orbit (LEO)
    • Lagrange points, L2 destination for astronomy probes, L1 for solar probes
  • radiation exposure for manned crews, Van Allen Belts
  • Mars as a destination is currently so costly it would be a one-destination mission before being cancelled, similar to Apollo
  • moral of the story is reusability
  • short term have to think of development costs
  • every new task should not require new development - never lets your project out of development mode
  • affordable approaches need versatility, incremental improvement
  • NASA has often been a model for how not to do a sustainable program
  • If you're going to do something soon, you may as well start doing it right away (i.e. orbital assembly)
  • consider backup plans rather than abort modes
  • support facilities
    • reliable facilities make a project more sustainable
    • missions shouldn't have to be self-sufficient
  • Earth to LEO - simplifying the problem
    • possible to rendezvous on first orbit or two
    • tugs may bridge gap so launcher doesn't have to reach a higher altitude station alone
    • expendable tether can toss payload to higher orbit and deorbit the launcher in one step
    • "biamese" two or three copies of same vehicle - often considered and rejected
      • significant dynamic pressures at staging
      • cross-feeding propellants so they don't all run out at same itme
      • switching tanks while buring rockets
      • some optimizations tempt designer to make vehicles different, destroys point of the concept anyway
      • makes some sense as a near-SSTO (single stage to orbit) that the second one is used as a booster to get first out of atmosphere
      • airplanes switch tanks in flight all the time, often using central tank
      • otherwise-identical booster can fly with tanks not full if advantageous
      • idea has potential for further experimentation
  • Orbital assembly
    • separate smaller launches can reduce overall costs vs heavy-lift launch
      • Saturn V enormous size set by size/mass of Apollo capsule + fuel
      • Mars mission planning starts depending on its weight in LEO
      • adding more fuel (multiple launches) has no development cost
    • orbital assembly base
      • makes assembly easier
      • reduced overhead in modules
      • supports incomplete configurations
      • thermal control, powere, ACS
      • structural stiffening and damping
      • "crush these problems - don't just solve them"
      • avoids detailed analysis of all partial configurations
      • eases tight timing
      • supplies consumables for countdown
      • gets crews over space adaptation
    • departure/return windows
      • downside of assembly base - have to rendezvous
      • base orbit predetermined
      • short launch windows for rendezvous
      • return winds from that orbit landing site
      • these problems are solvable
      • these systems need margins (Apollo usually needed to violate some planning rules to get to orbit)
      • multi-burn departures/arrivals for flexibility when sun angles matter - needs more endurance, solar flare storm shelters
      • exact orbit for base is not critical
      • equatorial is ideal, but not useful for tourism (equator is mostly ocean, no view of other latitudes)
    • plane-changing tricks - highly elliptical orbits have less cost of plane change at apogee
      • passes through Van Allen Belts - radiation protection needed for equipment, especially for people
    • Henry's idea of an assembly base is called "the shed"
      • enclosure protects construction area from sun/shadow temperature variations and micrometeoroid impacts
      • structural spine, fuel tanks, solar arrays
      • habitation module for assembly crew and visits by operational crew
  • Moon: the worst case
    • "worst short of Mars anyway"
    • High delta-V requirement
    • no atmosphere to help (or hinder)
    • "throwing away the vehicle every time is a cost disaster"
    • navigation and piloting are time critical
    • no really good place to put a base
    • showed list of delta-Vs for Lunar Landing
    • Henry thinks single stage from LEO to Lunar landing may be possible
      • vehicle designed only for vacuum, except for aerobraking on return to Earth orbit
    • diagram of his lunar vehicle - the "Turtle"
    • second Turtle can act as a booster
  • propellants
    • LOX/kerosene
    • Not using liquid hydrogen due to boil-off and low density
    • methane or propane could have advantages for similar temps of propellants
  • ISRU - in-situ resource utilization
    • Moon is only near source
    • asteroids too far for current technology
    • "aerospace engineers are overly optimistic about their skills as chemical engineers" - tend to gloss over issues that will bite them on fuel production at Lunar surface
    • easiest place to get more fuel after launch is in LEO
    • plan to size tanks to take advantage of that

* conclusion

  • NASA is not good at this
  • think of them as customers for transportation, not sponsors
    • i.e. NASA missions to Antarctica are on others' vehicles
  • don't wait for them to lead

George Herbert

George Herbert, "Project 248": 2 people, 4 days, 800 kg: Minimal Crew Capsule For A Ton-Class Launcher

* concept for crew transfer to ISS or other LEO destination
* affordability, seats to LEO

  • $500M for 4 seats is not affordable (Ares I)
  • $1.7B for 7 seats is not affordable (shuttle)
  • $50M/seat is "capitalism" (Soyuz for NASA)
  • $10M-20M/seat was affordable for tourists (Soyuz for Space Adventures)
  • $18.5M/seat is affordable enough (SpaceX Dragon, projected)
  • $10M/seat would be better

* what's safe?

  • redundant systems
  • no severely new systems or concepts that will scare investors
  • a capsule on a non-solid booster and good enough escape system without "black zones" (portions of launch where no safe escape scenario exists)
  • not any rocket that was originally deployed as an ICBM

* business realities

  • big is expensive
  • deep pockets are rare
  • NASA is not a venture capitalist or angel investor
  • smaller is better

* how small?

  • exclude solid rockets and high-G ICBMs
  • Falcon 1E is smallest option
  • 1010kg equatorial, 900kg to 51 degrees inclination

* Project 248 concept

  • 2 people
  • 4 days to ISS or other platform + crew xfer and return to Earth
  • 800kg to 51 degrees
  • 2 people - 4 days - 800kg -> "2-4-8"
  • with change to 900kg plan, it would be 2-4-9, didn't change name

* challenges

  • modern man-rated systems too heavy
  • ISS docking/berthing adapters are too heavy
  • extravehicular crew transfer not a safe alternative

* factors making docking adapters heavy

  • structural mating of two craft
  • holding pressure between vaccuum and breathable atmosphere

* George's new berthing mechanism concept

  • concentric cylinders
  • uses inflatable seal to lock it
  • "no axial force"
  • advantages
    • inflating seals self-center it
    • no precision-machined interface in the assembly
    • no tight tolerances
    • less expensive
  • issues
    • slow leaks (mitigated by 2 rows of seals
    • would need a larger launcher to get a port up to ISS or alternate destination

* diagram of proposed capsule

  • planned to match Falcon 1E launcher specs
  • commercial off-the-shelf systems: SSTL, Xbow, BRS
  • could land on water if needed

* estimated mass budget table

Dan Rasky, NASA Ames

Dan Rasky, Commercial RLV Technology Roadmap, NASA Ames

Jeff Foust posted Dan's slides at NewSpace Journal

* following NACA (NASA predecessor for aviation) approach for working with industry
* Commercial and Government Responsive Access to Space Transportation (CRASTE)
* for RLV (reusable launch vehicle) development, avoid failed 1990's X-33 approach of government-driven program
* lower cost access to space by commercial RLVs will benefit NASA research
* began study by soliciting input from space industry
* initial interviews w/ 19 companies
* web site to collect further input
* small, medium and large companies contacted
* surprising commonality between the company-identified needs regardless of size of company, categories:

  • business support
    • responsive and affordable access to gov't test facilities
    • launch ranges
    • vehicle hazard assessments
    • gov't standards databases
    • prevention/removal of orbital debris
  • gov't services
    • more green/non-toxic propellants than currently in use
    • gov't provides more comprehensive studies on turbopumps, rocket chambers, etc like NACA did for airfoils
    • cryogenic propellant management
  • specific technologies
    • advanced sensors and wireless systems
    • entry systems and thermal protection systems (TPS)
    • assistance with oceanic recovery of rocket stages
    • lightweight landing gear
    • on-orbit docking systems and procedures
  • integrated flight demonstrators
    • X-34 intended as Mach 8 suborbital demonstrator w/ quick turnaround, never flew due to cancellation
    • NASA Dryden has posession of the two X-34 airframes
    • other X-planes may be possible as driven by commercial sector needs

* from Q&A

  • successes in commercial space industry provide "undeniable counterexamples" to the old-school critics within NASA
  • NASA evolved the way it is because of unacceptable costs of failure (i.e. Challenger and Columbia)

John Carmack and Matt Ross, Armadillo Aerospace
John Carmack, Armadillo Aerospace

John Carmack, Armadillo Aerospace

* Progress video edited by Matt Ross, finished 2 hours before presentation "as usual" :-)

  • blizzard of images, as usual very well done
  • will be posted on Armadillo's web site

* video (only at SA10, not online) of 4000' boosted hop, computer abort at 3000' and crash

  • John discusses technical lessons learned

* Armadillo now mostly full-time staff from original volunteers
* operationally profitable, not a return on John's investment yet

  • John has more other resources after selling Id Software

* has become the company it was originally envisioned to be
* Centennial Challenges some of the best money NASA has ever spent, based on the results achieved

  • John is still "bitter" about the result of Lunar Lander Challenge

* first time handing off operation of a rocket to a customer

  • Rocket Racing League did 50th flight of Armadillo racer planes today

* the idea of flying a rocket only once a year or once a quarter "is so not where you want to be"
* boosted hop rocket tests

  • Expect to fly up to 6000' at home base at Caddo Mills Municipal Airport, then to Oklahoma Spaceport (Clinton-Sherman Airport) to 20,000', then to Spaceport America near Las Cruces NM
  • challenging to design enough static stability to overcome propellants sloshing in tanks
  • "we still have 3 Mod frames that we can destroy"

* recent lessons learned - you want plenty of control authority

  • "what you want is 3 times as much control authority as you think you need so you can laugh at the atmosphere as you blast by"

* NASA purchased Pixel - "we have sold a rocket to NASA" - Armadillo still operates it w/ NASA payloads
* unclear if they'll have prepared pads in NM; whether they'll have to do recovery of vehicles
* something yet to be wrapped up which was not ready for an announcement today - maybe within the next month
* John says this market is real - summary of NASA, universities, commercial business building up
* test flights will build lots of experience before putting people on VTVL rockets
* long-term goal is still to get to orbit
* mixed reaction to working with government - good relations with everyone they work with, but hard to watch all the inefficiencies
* "we can get to space under the amateur exemption" in Federal Aviation Regulations
* "every year we have a regulatory crisis"
* from Q&A

  • working with Rocket Racing League: brought one of RRL's staff in-house as an "embedded" member of Armadillo team
  • some risk to the company taking that approach, but pushes progress as quickly as possible
  • wants to build vehicles that others will operate - RRL is the first to do so
  • RRL experience with pilot on-board led John to re-evaluate assumptions about VTVL (vertical takeoff vertical landing) rockets. Still thinks a computer is better to fly VTVL.

Andrew Petro, NASA HQ

Andrew Petro, Centennial Challenges, NASA HQ

* NASA Prize Authorization comes from act of Congress, helps to ensure the prize money doesn't expire prematurely in budget-wrangling
* Centennial Challenges program has its own challenge due to no operating budget
* operating expenses handled by external judging organizations (i.e. X-Prize Foundation, etc)
* competitors put the most money into the challenges
* regolith challenge facility will remain a test facility available for NASA and commercial use
* update to Green Flight Challenge coming at end of presentation
* Lunar Lander Challenge had 4 teams fly over several years: Masten Space Systems, Armadillo Aerospace, Unreasonable Rocket, and TruZero
* Power Beaming Challenge was made more difficult each year even though no one had won. Was completed in 2009. All the teams used lasers. Helicopter crews taped up all downward-facing windows.
* Green Flight Challenge: 200 miles range, 200 mph, 200 passenger miles per gallon, repeated on consecutive days - to be held July 2011 in Santa Rosa, California
* new challenge getting technologies to work on reduced gravity environments - NASA will pay for the flight but not the experiments
* Showed slide with lots of brainstormed ideas for follow-on to Lunar Lander Challenge. There's a larger list covering more of the challenges.