The NM STAR Group
Students will also calculate the total round-trip time to transfer between orbits, and use that information to determine the duration of the space mission.
End of Quarter 1
(Midterm Fall Semester)
Square Root Equations
Gravitational Parameter (km3/s2)
Earth Radius (equatorial) (km)
Lower Orbital Altitude (km)
Higher Orbital Altitude (km)
On-Station Time (days)
Periapsis delta V (kps)
Apoapsis delta V (kps)
Delta V Budget (kps)
Transfer Time (days)
Mission Duration (days)
Activating Previous Learning
Note: A grateful tip of the hat goes to Metric Only, who gave a very helpful constructive criticism on the last diary: Keep the units in metric (S.I.). Thanks Metric Only!
Continued below the fold...
As it turns out, designing and planning a space mission involves the use of many different mathematical concepts and equations that students learn in their Algebra classes.
While the concepts and mathematics involved in astronautics can be daunting (after all, if someone wants to describe something that is easy to do, they may use the saying "this ain't rocket science, ya know", which implies that rocket science is indeed, difficult), we will be using ordinary High School Algebra. Specifically, we will be using square root equations, linear equations, and logarithmic equations. These topics are introduced in Algebra 1, and are expanded upon in Algebra 2 and beyond.
So the invariable question from students becomes "Why do we have to do all of this S.T.E.M. stuff anyway?" and "Why do we have to do all this extra work?" and "This is so lame."
While we have no real answer for the last statement above, a legitimate answer does indeed exist for the other questions asked. We came upon it while conducting our research, where one of the many fascinating websites we discovered was Astronaut Abby. She is strongly involved in S.T.E.M. advocacy, and she had a very interesting graphic which caught our eye:
Those of us who are old enough remember being glued to the TV watching the Apollo astronauts take humankind's first fleeting steps on another world. The Apollo 11 lunar landing and moonwalk united most of the planet in ways that have yet to be reproduced in any meaningful way. Even though subsequent landings never garnered the attention that the first one did, it was still a grand and historic "way to go!" for the entire human species.
Then we stopped.
Sigh. And I was so looking forward to growing up and taking a few steps myself, since I was planning to be one of the many thousands of lunar colonists that was supposed to be on the moon by now. Oh, well.
So instead, we are on the moon because we have built a lunar colony, mining lunar ice for rocket fuel. Well, at least in our imaginations we are, anyway.
Our colony will refuel lunar landers so that they can get to lunar orbit to retrieve payload. We will be using these same vehicles to visit other sites of geologic interest on the Moon. Instead of attaching a Crew Module (CM), however, we will be attaching the Expeditionary Crew Module (ECM).
The ECM is really half of a CM with the Environmental Controls located under the floor.
Accessible from the outside, space is also provided under the floor for payload such as sensors, experiments, etc.
The ECM operates in a pure Oxygen environment, so that suiting up in the Z-2 Space Suit and going outside can be done relatively quickly.
Once the astronauts are in the suit, cables lower them to the lunar surface. The astronauts then unhook and are able to walk around freely. To get back inside, the process is reversed: the astronauts hook in and the cables lift them up to the ECM. They reconnect the backpack to the airlock and crawl out of he suit after air pressure has been equalized.
The ECM attached to either a fully fueled Lunar Lander or a Lunar Rover will allow the systematic exploration of the moon.
The most interesting sites of them all are the landing sites of Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17. These will be one of our first expeditions to the lunar surface from the lunar colony near the South Pole.
With (non) apologies to the great ZZ Top.
It is not right to have a city in the sky without the ability to go outside. Of course, going outside in space can be lethal. Thus, the spacesuit was born. Spacesuits have undergone many changes in its evolutionary period, and have been used in many different EVA scenarios. However, every single one of the designs absolutely needed one additional component to operate safely:
If only there was a spacesuit that you could enter from the back (where the backpack is) while the spacesuit is attached to the side of a vehicle or module, so that you could leave the spacesuit outside all the time, and thus eliminating the need for an airlock.
Contined below the fold...
If you are the typical space tourist, a week-long vacation in Low Earth Orbit served only to whet your appetite for an even more audacious adventure.
The ultimate space vacation would be walking on another astronomical body, such as the Moon or Mars. Since asteroids and comets have such low gravity, an EVA there would look more like a space walk than a moon walk (the actual kind, not the Michael Jackson kind).
A Mars vacation would be awesome, but, unfortunately, it is not available (yet). However, what would be just as awesome is "strolling on the Moon one day".
This diary describes a typical vacation going to the Moon. We will require that the space adventurer have spent a week on the LEOS before being allowed to travel to the Moon. This should weed out the ones that will have a hard time enduring a month off world.
So again, just like last time, as a "typical" multi-millionaire interested in space travel, you purchased a ticket for a vacation in space. The price paid was $25M (USD) for 30 days in space, with 17 of those days on the lunar surface. You also placed another $1M in escrow in case you do not pass the pre-spaceflight physical. So what do you get for your money?
Just like the LEO vacation, you arrive at Spaceport America to board a Skylon to the LEO Station.
Once in space, you will catch a lunar shuttle, or Lunar Transfer Vehicle (LTV) that will take you to the Moon. After the Skylon docks with the city in space, you exit and go immediately to the Crew Module (CM) that is also docked with the space station. The LTV's CM will be home for the next 6 days.
Space tourism will one day become a major industry in space. Our space program calls for using tourism as one of the many ways to generate income. However, we feel that just going into space is not enough; that what the regular astronauts does in space must be experienced by the space tourist as well.
This is the story of one of one of those "typical" tourists. I put typical in scare-quotes because these individuals are not really typical; they are multi-millionaires (minimum) who enjoy the better things that life has to offer simply because they can afford it. This has been, unfortunately, the only way that new technology has advanced. Oh well. All we can say is that these millionaire vacationers will help pave the way for everyone to go into space... eventually. In the mean time, we can go there in our imaginations.
So as a "typical" multi-millionaire interested in space travel, you purchased a ticket for a vacation in space. The price paid was $5M (USD) for 9 days in space, and $1M in escrow in case you do not pass the pre-spaceflight physical. So what do you get for your money?
You wake up on a Thursday, and head directly to your doctor. After several hours, the doctor confirms that you have passed a standard space flight physical. You don't want any last-minute surprises.
The next day, Friday, you and all of your family and friends hop on your private jets to fly to Spaceport America, located in sunny New Mexico, USA. Everyone checks into a hotel and settles in for the night.
The next day, Saturday, everyone takes a tour of the Spaceport facility, as well as the Skylon spacecraft and it's facilities. You celebrate your upcoming flight with friends and family that night.
The next day, you and the rest of your fellow space travelers are placed in quarantine, and then pass the company standard flight physical, at which time the $1M (USD) is transfered back to your account.
You are briefed and trained on Skylon and LEOS emergency procedures. This includes the Space Rescue Ball, where you zip yourself inside a pressurized ball with a handle on the outside, and breathe through an oxygen mask. You can then be transported from a spacecraft that has lost pressurization. A space-suited astronaut would move you around using the handle. It's a bit claustrophobic, but everyone agrees that this is better than trying to breathe in a vacuum, which ain't gonna happen.
You go to bed that night full of anticipation for the launch tomorrow. Sleep is elusive.
The next day, Monday, you and the rest of the tourists have a final breakfast, and suit up in tourist orange (to spot you better, in case of an emergency). You and the crew are led out to a van, where you are driven out to the awaiting Skylon spacecraft.
The Skylon looks like any ordinary airliner, except for its stubby wings and engines mounted on the wing edges. The open door with a stairwell on the port side of the spacecraft shows the way in.
Continued over the fold...
The one eternal question that agonizes engineers and planners is: can a way be found to improve on a design?
Of course, the answer is always yes, so instead of wasting time answering silly questions, new and better ways of doing things will always present itself, if one is willing to embrace change. A space design thus gets to improve.
So the question that we at NMSTARG have agonized over is: can we make our Low Earth Orbit Station (LEOS) better?
And as it turns out, the answer is a resounding yes.
Bigelow Aerospace rocks. Their inflatable products are awesome. Their inflatable station is launched into orbit, and then, well, inflated. What a concept.
The advantages over a "Tin Can" pressurized module (such as the ones used by the ISS, and, NMSTARG) are obvious. For about the same launch configuration, you can almost triple the pressurized, usable volume.
This is not some future dream. This is current reality.
To flight test the concept, Bigelow launched the Genesis I in 2006 and Genesis II in 2007. Both of them are still up there. You can even track them in Earth orbit in real time here and here.
It has a kevlar micrometeoroid shield, windows, it's very own solar panels, and can be interconnected very easily, with very little assembly required; just hook 'em up and go! It really is an amazing space habitat, and any commercial space program should be incorporating these exciting products into their schemes.
So, um, why aren't we using them?
Because the Bigelow BA-330, while super awesome, a) won't fit in the REL Skylon payload bay, and b) is too heavy to launch with the Skylon vehicle (sob).
Otherwise, we'd be using it like a big dog.
The Skylon can carry a 42 foot long payload; the Bigelow is 45 feet long. The Skylon can handle 32,500 lbs to LEO; the Bigelow weighs 44,000 lbs.
But wait. Just because we can't fly this truly remarkable space station on the Skylon, doesn't mean that we have to abandon the whole thing, right?
Now you're talking my language.
Let's explore some answers, shall we?
We have finally reached the end of a long journey (yet the beginning of new journey that lies ahead):
When we started this project, we had in mind where we were going with our ideas; and like any endeavor, projects become a process, and that means constantly tinkering with the results. We have reached our goals some time ago and think it warrants saying, though without boasting, that we believe we have built a complete and innovative aerospace model from the ground up, at least on paper as it were, and our modality for missions amounts to basically having a better mouse trap.
The Skylon spacecraft from Reaction Engines, Ltd., denotes that better mouse trap. Using this mode of transportation that may be radical in nature, but with a realistic chance of success, we can deliver more payload for less money, less hassle, less implementation (i.e., no need for launch gantries and the like). More importantly, we envision a 100% reusable resource built on a sustainable rocketry program in all its facets.
Hence, no waste.
We also believe that we have an innovative way to attract investors. They will not only be able to purchase a ticket to stay a week in space, but will also get their investment fully refunded once they have returned from space!
More over, our space tourism concept, which delineates one facet of our multifaceted aerospace program, has a potential for creating thousands of jobs. The delivery package for our passengers also costs far less than any industry currently considering space tourism as an option or its main product.
We deal with how we clean up our own mess (i.e., space debris), we discuss ways of recovering spent satellites, we talk about the problems associated with generating in-situ propellant, etc. etc. We've even created S.T.E.M. projects for high school students! (that is a topic for future DKos posts) We can truly claim to have designed an all-encompassing, complete, robust, and reusable space program.
What proof have we that such a program is cost effective? Well, they do say a picture is worth a thousand words, right? So how about two thousand words?
The image above is a cost comparison chart between the Space Shuttle and the shuttle that NASA had salivated over in 1970. It was actually a Space Shuttle-Space Tug combination (image below), where the Shuttle would, for example, lift a satellite attached to a Space Tug up to Low Earth Orbit in its Payload Bay. The Tug would then separate from the Shuttle and place the satellite into Geosynchronous Earth Orbit. The Tug would then return empty, where the Shuttle would recover it, and bring it back to Earth for refurbishing, refueling, and reuse.
What an excellent idea. So this became our business model.
True, we can continue limping along the way the space program has been since the start, thereby shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars to launch and recover vehicles which, of course, adds up to, ultimately, billions of dollars.
We believe that there is a smarter way to go about it. Namely, we can spend the money now, all at once (so to speak), and perfect an epic space program given all the touted features outlined above. Get it right and stay right, and always look for innovations that make space flight even more perfect in the future.
The alternative is limited space payload delivery, that is, missions flown per year, verses a year-round launch and recovery program that pays for itself in any number of ways, and embraces the once far-reaching ideals of the likes of Arthur C. Clark's space wheel, lunar bases, and beyond.
Of course, this all begins by having a much easier way to get into outer space and back down on the ground. Once that problem has been solved, the rest of the problems can be solved relatively quickly and cheaply.
A comment about what is coming next plus the complete diary series is below the fold...
Now that our colonies in space and on the moon are completed and functioning, we can turn our attention to our final entry into this diary series, in which we discuss various ideas for advanced colonization.
Each of the ideas that will be presented today have advantages and disadvantages. If the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, NMSTARG will recommend that the idea should be further explored. The same will be true for the reverse, i.e., if the disadvantges outweigh the advantages, then NMSTARG will not recommend a further study. Which is a long-winded way of saying that we wound up not recommending one of the items listed below.
These advanced systems are:
Lunar Cycler: a space station that orbits the earth, where the high point of the elliptical orbit is at the Moon
Habitat Wheel: The kind of space station depicted in old science fiction movies, such as "2001, A Space Odyssey"
He-3 Energy Source: Fusion energy will power space stations and lunar bases
But we're already in space, and enjoying the view. So we have all the time in the world.
So far, we have all of our space infrastructure in place, and, like a well oiled machine, it is humming right along. Spaceships are delivering passengers and cargo up to Low Earth Orbit and all the way to the Lunar Surface. We are even taking care of the trash that we create.
However (you knew there would be one, right?), there are serious health issues that arise while trying to colonize space. McCoy's rant on Star Trek XI about the perils of space is only the beginning of what awaits our intrepid voyagers.
While we don't quite have to worry about Andorian Shingles (yet), there are other just as serious hazards that await us in space. But all is not lost; there are things that we can address immediately, such as nutrition and adequate shielding.
These voyagers who will be lucky enough to fly in space will also be lucky enough to be served good, nutritious, healthy food. So that part of the equation has already been taken care of (see the section under Astronaut Food Preparation Facility at this NMSTARG DKos diary).
We also intend to wrap each station module in a kevlar-like material to stop most high-speed particles (a water barrier, of course, is the best, and will eventually be incorporated), so that part of the equation has already been taken care of as well.
(Note: The folks at Bigelow offer a space station module made with kevlar and with a water barrier system already in place. This most excellent product will be discussed in a future DKos Diary).
What has not been satisfactorily remedied is one of the more serious stumbling blocks to space colonization: the human body's inability to cope with long-term weightlessness. Bones become weaker, muscles deteriorate, the heart doesn't have to work as hard, and so, doesn't, ... the list goes on. If it is allowed to continue, weightless-adaptation will have occurred, and the sufferer is permanently exiled in space.
NASA's experience with human spaceflight has shown that strenuous exercise is one way to combat this deterioration. This form of exercise usually takes place on an stationary bicycle where the astronaut is strapped into the seat. It isn't as effective a form of exercise as on Earth, but it is one of the best so far. Bones still become weaker, but not as much. Muscles still deteriorate, but, again, not as much. Even the heart has to work just a little bit harder.
Alas, there just isn't anything like good ol' fashioned one gee to do a body good.
So any exercise enviroment must have the following criteria:
Exercise Area: a place where astronauts can exercise in as close to a Standard Gravity (i.e., normal gravity) environment as possible
Is this even possible in a weightless environment?
The answer, of course, involves physics. To the physics lab and beyond!
With a tip of the hat to Scatman Crothers and the TV show Chico and the Man.
One of the first lessons that I had learned about backpacking was this: Pack it out. Trash, that is. In other words, the great outdoors is to be enjoyed responsibly. Unfortunately, that same principle is not being applied in space.
We not only have a plan to colonize space, we also have a plan to keep it clean.
Spent rockets and satellites are left in space as useless junk causing navigation hazards for everyone else. In the case of a jet engine that has reached its time limit, the engine is simply overhauled, and the clock is turned back to zero. Rocket engines cannot be overhauled in the same way. Too many micro fractures and other defects start to add up. The only thing to do with a spent rocket is to throw it away.
However, the old saying of one person's garbage is another person's treasure certainly can be applied here.
So, we plan to turn our trash into cash.
Our diary series is nearly complete. We have discussed what kind of infrastructure is needed in space, as well as how much everything is going to cost. Now we turn to the very thing that will sustain any attempt at space colonization: making money.
Making a profit in space has been the dream of space entrepreneurs for many decades now. However, the dream is always shattered when the cold, unblinking light of reality is shined upon the numbers, which is to say, it just doesn't add up. The initial cost is always very high, and it takes many many flights just to break even, let alone having enough left over to call a profit.
But before we can do anything in space, we must have a cheap and reliable way to get to space.
Many people believed (and still believe) that space travel will be opened to the masses in the same way that air travel had been opened: the government does all the experimenting first, then allows the entrepreneurs to take over.
The story of the jet engine has a similar theme: in the beginning it was very costly, polluted like crazy, and consumed vast quantities of fuel. Yet today, the aeronautical world cannot exist (and make a profit) without jet engines. Of course, they have been improved beyond recognition, but that is exactly the point.
The hybrid rocket engine that REL is attempting to build is now in the same stage as the early jet engines were. It's called SABRE (Synergetic Air Breathing Rocket Engine), and we feel that we need to give this engine a chance, for just like the jet engine had revolutionized the world, so too will this hybid rocket engine.
The creator of the Skylon spaceplane that will use the SABRE, Alan Bond, came to understand the need for cheap, reliable transportation into LEO when was working on Project Daedalus. He discovered that his interstellar spaceship could not be built in space without a great shuttle flying first. Any space program desperately depends on whatever vehicle is used to get to space.
Unfortunately, at first, it ain't gonna be cheap.
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