Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Our Next Space Capsule

One of the relatively minor fallouts of recent Russian adventurism is our co-operative space ventures with them, primarily the ISS. While Astronauts and Cosmonauts may personally get along very well, and continue to do so, the governments that sponsor them will have other interests in mind.

The Space Shuttles are scheduled to retire in two more years when the ISS is complete. Its replacement, the Orion, which could be reasonably described as an upgraded Apollo Space Capsule with a four man capacity, is not scheduled to go on line until 2014 at best, which means that for around 4 years we will be depending on Russian rockets to get our people to the ISS.

Of course if we really wanted to we could probably extend the active life of the shuttles for a year or two, but I don't know about four more years as they are getting kind of old. Unless another way is found we may have to depend on the Russians . . .

Unless we have a wildcard in the deck.

Sometimes private industry is a step or two ahead of the government. Behold! The oddly named but still viable DRAGON. Courtesy of Space Exploration Technologies.

It is capable of either a cargo, personnel, or mixed configuration and was designed to support private commercial platforms that would become economically and technologically viable in the next decade. In spite of a minor setback a couple of weeks ago with its launch vehicle (the Falcon), the Dragon is further along in its development than the Orion and NASA needs to take a good look at it. It could conceivably be operational a full two years before the Orion. I don't know if the Dragon is capable of leaving Earth orbit and going to the moon, but it is designed to reach and dock with, the ISS.

Recent news involving the Dragon can be read here.

I would love it if free enterprise saves our nation's Space Program.

Note that Bigelow Aerospace is also a major player in the private development of space and are working towards building private space stations very soon.

Finally, I think we would benefit from two competitive systems rather than one.

UPDATE: My younger brother who works at the cape sent me a link of a letter that John McCain and others sent to President Bush regarding this very problem. (pdf file)


Blogger Bloviating Zeppelin said...

Two competitive space systems? I'm for that one.


9:07 AM  
Blogger Gayle said...

"Dragon"? Now you've just got to know that I love that, Shoprat! :)

9:56 AM  
Blogger benning said...

Let's stop farting around and get something up there large enough to use as a launch platform! Sheesh!

Nice post. ;)

9:30 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

I don't think that we will have too much trouble getting our relations back on track with the Russians after their little tiff with Georgia blows over.
I was just at the Air and Space Museum in DC and got some pics of Appollo 11, which is on display there.
You know, if we were not spending 9,000,000,000.00$ a month in Iraq, maybe NASA would get enough cash to refurbish the Shuttles and keep them going while we wait for their replacement.
They also had that Virgin Galactic spaceship at the Air and Space Museum. I think that private enterprize getting into space is coming, but it will be years before they are a viable competitor to state sponsored space programs.

7:05 AM  
Blogger shoprat said...

tim I wish I could share your optimism about our future relations with Russia. I am rather pessimistic.

8:47 AM  
Blogger Tim said...

Shoprat, if you mean getting the "Ruskies" (get help it, I love that nickname) to jump through hoops like a trained pony and do exactly what we want them to do, you are right. But look, we can co-exist with them a lot easier than these jihadists, can't we. They at least think logically and can be dealt with. It was foolish for us to encourage Georgia to join NATO. How would you feel if there was a hostile military bloc that wanted to set up shop on America's doorstep. We went into Iraq to further our national interests and they are doing the same. We have no moral authority to admonish them over this. Think Realpolitic and Detente.

11:45 AM  

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