Tag Archives: engineering

More details on Ares/Ariane hybrid rocket

More details on Liberty, the Ares/Ariane hybrid rocket proposed by ATK and Alliant to provide crew/cargo capabilities to ISS. Key quote:

[Liberty] would be able to lift 44,500 lb. of payload to the International Space Station, enough for any of the commercial crew capsules under development as potential space shuttle replacements.

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Companies team up on new rocket

The competition to build rockets continues to heat up: A U.S. and European partnership is proposing its own new cargo rocket for NASA, using the Ares I first stage and the Ariane 5 second stage. Key quote:

Dubbed Liberty, the launcher looks similar to the Ares I rocket that was being developed for NASA’s Project Constellation, which was cancelled by the Obama Administration. For its first stage it employs the same advanced, five-segment version of the shuttle’s solid rocket booster. But in a move that significantly lowers development costs, the second stage of the rocket is based on the flight-proven core stage of Europe’s Ariane 5 rocket.

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Falcon 9 signed to launch Google Lunar X prize competitor

One of the competitor’s for the Google Lunar X prize has signed a contract with SpaceX to use the Falcon 9 to get its spacecraft to the Moon. Key quote:

The Falcon 9 upper stage will sling Astrobotic on a four-day cruise to the Moon. Astrobotic will then orbit the moon to align for landing. The spacecraft will land softly, precisely and safely using technologies pioneered by Carnegie Mellon University for guiding autonomous cars. The rover will explore for three months, operate continuously during the lunar days, and hibernate through the lunar nights. The lander will sustain payload operations with generous power and communications.

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Remembering Columbia

An evening pause: On this day eight years ago, the space shuttle Columbia broke up as it returned from orbit. Rather than watch that sad sight again, I’d rather remember the shuttle’s achievements. Watch this footage of Columbia’s first landing on April 14, 1981, which proved it was possible to glide powerless back from space and land safely on a runway. Though we as a nation might be abandoning this approach right now, future generations will use this as their standard way to return to Earth.

Several things to note as you watch the video. First, the shuttle’s angle of descent is extremely and frighteningly steep, until the very last moment. And every shuttle landing is like this. The shuttle is heavy, but it is still attempting to glide powerless to a landing. To do so it needs the thickness of the atmosphere combined with high speed to give it lift. Thus, it plows downward at a mucher higher speed and angle than any airplane, then quickly levels out at the last moment.

Secondly, this first landing did not have a drogue chute to slow the shuttle down. Rather than complicate things, they simply let the shuttle roll until it came to a stop.

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