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Showing posts from October, 2010

Thoughts on a SpaceX Lunar Architecture

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It's no secret that the SpaceX Dragon capsule has a very impressive heat shield believed to be capable of direct lunar return. Official statements from SpaceX that they intend to add deployable landing gear and leverage the thrusters in order to land on land in the future prompts an obvious suggestion: if it can land on Earth, could it land on the Moon too?



The Dragon capsule has thus far been launched on the Falcon 9 booster, and although that booster is able to put 2473kg into lunar transfer orbit, after using the Draco thusters on the Dragon to enter low lunar orbit the total mass would be under 1876kg.. this seems a bit light for a crewed configuration, especially when you consider that only 1422kg of it could be returned to Earth. And that's just lunar orbit.

We need a bigger rocket, and the official SpaceX plan right now is called the Falcon 9 Heavy. One should not be confused by the name, the F9H is not "heavy lift" in the sense often used by space advocate…

Revolutionary Thinking in Nuclear Rockets

A few months ago I started talking to Jim Dewar about his latest book, which I reviewed in August. My suggestion to him was that he needs to write a better introduction that assumes the technical knowledge of rocketry but not the nuclear industry. He took on the task and recruited a number of people to serve as reviewers, myself included. So far, it hasn't been published anywhere, but he's given me a copy and invited me to publish it here.

To avoid confusion, I've put it on my website:

A Technical and Economic Introduction to Nuclear Rockets

It's long but divided into sections, and I think Dewar has done a great job, so check it out.

Jim tells me he would like to hear feedback.

Affordable Deep Space Exploration

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For too long the aspirations of NASA have not matched the budget allocated. Building the International Space Station has been a decade long effort, now finally reaching completion, and until just recently the plan was to splash it into the ocean before moving on to "the next thing". For a while, that was a return of humans to the Moon, but the recognition that the necessary budget would not be forthcoming has pushed that goal so far into the future that it doesn't even make much sense to talk about it anymore.

Today, the focus is on making a new heavy lift vehicle, finishing a big heavy capsule to go on it, and considering the possible missions that could be done with that hardware should it ever be finished. At the same time, technology development and commercialization of ISS resupply promise to free up some existing budget dollars to pay for the lunar landers and prepare for the next next thing: Mars.

This has prompted many to ask: what if we didn't need heav…