Thursday, March 11, 2010

I was speechless!

I'm over it now.
This is the longest I've gone between posts.

When the Obama administration killed the NASA Constellation Program I truly did not know what to think. Since I didn't want to start blathering like an idjit without knowing any real facts,
I just shut up. Too bad politicians and newscasters can't do the same. I do try to look at both sides of anything, thus I can't be gung-ho about every cool aerospace project that comes along,
or about a cancellation. I did NOT like the Constellation Program, particularly the Ares I, top and bottom. I won't miss it a bit. The Ares V/VI iterations looked better, but were plagued by problems as well. As near as I can tell, it needed bigger engines than are currently available. Until they re-approach or exceed the Saturn Program F1 engine they're wasting time and money. Now it appears that NASA is going to redirect research money in that direction. The "New Hydrocarbon Engine" is intended to meet or exceed the Russian RD-180 which puts
out 860,000 Lbs of thrust. Not big enough I say. Hydrocarbon is fancy talk for Kerosene. Not as much energy per pound as burning Hydrogen, but it's a LOT denser, which saves volume on the first stage where it can be used. Saved volume means less booster weight and height, and it doesn't need to be insulated, or defueled if a launch is seriously delayed.
Another article spoke of NASA initiating real research into orbital fuel depots. Another needed link in the chain to future space activities.

Between cancellation of Constellation and the Shuttle retirement, the job loss numbers are nothing short of staggering. I hear numbers like 20,000 jobs lost in Florida alone. Combined job losses in others states may rival that. This is a bad time to even threaten that, given the nation's financial woes. That's a lot of folks that aren't going to spend an extra dime towards improving the economy even while they can. Another factor to consider is the message this sends to our children. We are trying to get more kids interested in science and high tech educations, meanwhile the folks who currently hold those kinds of jobs are getting laid-off enmasse.

A recent report stated that it would take 2 years from the go signal to add new flights to the shuttle's remaining few. No big stumbling blocks besides putting the fuel tanks back in production. The shuttles will still be flying for most of this year, so that still leaves a bit of a gap. Maybe some overtime or the temporary shift of extra workers would close that gap somewhat.
I do think the STS system is aged, but we should not walk away from its' capabilities for any reason. I never felt that the STS should be our only major access to space, and now less than ever, but we should continue to use it where other vehicles won't suffice. At this point it would take quite a while to produce new improved shuttle orbiters, but we should get on with that. It'll always be more expensive to do so later.

Special thanks to the articles I found at Spaceflight Now.